Rustication by Charles Palliser

Born in New England Charles Palliser is an American citizen but has lived in the United Kingdom since the age of three. He went up to Oxford in 1967 to read English Language and Literature and took a First in June 1970. He was awarded the BLitt in 1975 for a dissertation on Modernist fiction. From 1974 until 1990 Palliser was a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He was the first Deputy Editor of The Literary Review when it was founded in 1979.

His first novel, The Quincunx, became an international best-seller. The latest, his first in ten years, Rustication is a Victorian Gothic mystery. ‘Rustication’ is the condition of ‘being sent’ down from University for a misdemeanour or other reason.

The summary is as follows. It’s Christmas, 1863. Richard Shenstone, aged seventeen, has been sent down from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by disturbing sexual desires, he finds temporary refuge in the creaking old mansion inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie, whose behaviour grows increasingly bizarre. Soon, graphic and threatening letters begin to circulate among the local populace, where no one is quite who he seems and almost anyone can be considered a suspect in a series of crimes ranging from vivisection to murder. This is very fine writing. The suspense is maintained beautifully. It’s a most satisfying read and I commend it to you.

336 pages in W.W. Norton & Company paperback edition

ISBN 978-0393348231

Charles Palliser

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