by Charles Palliser – 2013
historical crime fiction
rating – 8
First book of 2014 and it’s a decent start. I wasn’t familiar with Charles Palliser prior to Rustication but I gather he has a notable oeuvre and good following. I’m curious now about his prior work, Quincunx.
When a student was expelled from Oxford, Cambridge or Durham he was said to have been “rusticated,” at least in mid-19th century England. And that’s what has happened to 17-year old Richard Shenstone, the opium addicted and very troubled 1st person narrator (we read his diary and a couple notes by C.P.) of this rather horror-tinged gothic tale.
He returns home to the rural community of Thurchester where his mother, the widow of a clergyman, and his sister are in deep trouble financially as well as socially. What has happened? Or rather, what is happening? Incredibly vulgar letters start showing up, animals ale mutilated, threats are made while Richard harasses the women and stays up late at night wandering the countryside. Is Richard the mad villain? There is nothing in his diary to directly indicate that. Does he even know what he’s doing?
This is a page-turner, folks, and not for the faint of heart, but it’s also a rollicking good yarn where the puzzler aspects along with the language provide the focus.
(in a somewhat new format to accommodate ye olde iPad)