by Charles Palliser
I had to read this when I heard Charles Palliser called the new Wilkie Collins. The book has a wonderful gothic feel and the plot keeps us guessing.
Our narrator, Richard Shenstone, has been sent down from Cambridge, or ‘rusticated.’ During his absence at school, his mother and sister, Effie, have moved to a large house, newly inherited. Richard is trouble by the dilapidated condition of the house and by its single servant, as well as by the cool reception he receives.
Richard is also troubled by the delay in receiving his trunk, as it contains his supply of opium. When the trunk arrives, Effie quickly deduces Richard’s addiction and uses it as leverage in the battle Richard does not fully understand they are fighting.
Soon after Richard’s arrival, citizens of the town begin receiving nasty letters, followed by the mutilation of livestock and eventually a murder. Richard tries to reason out the source of the crimes, flying from one theory to another with each new day. His ever-changing suspicions remind us how easily we misread situations and attribute wrong motives. He is a troubled man, scarred by a violent father. We begin to doubt his reliability as a narrator.
Mrs. Shenstone is a weak woman, who believes in what she wishes instead of what is true. The formerly-beloved Effie has turned against Richard and seeks to manipulate her family to achieve her mysterious goals.
In order to enjoy this gothic novel with its twisty plot, you have to overlook disturbing sexual diary entries. So, yeah, not suitable for all viewers.