Betrayals

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At once a hypnotic murder mystery, scathing literary parody, soap opera, and brilliant pastiche, Betrayals is an astonishing virtuouso performance by a modern master of literary gamesmanship in the tradition of Vladimir Nabokov and John Barth.
The novel unforlds in a series of seemingly unrelated narratives, each written in a different style — indeed, in a different genre. There is an obituary for a Scottish scientist and Nobel Prize winner, written by a colleague who clearly ...
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Overview

At once a hypnotic murder mystery, scathing literary parody, soap opera, and brilliant pastiche, Betrayals is an astonishing virtuouso performance by a modern master of literary gamesmanship in the tradition of Vladimir Nabokov and John Barth.
The novel unforlds in a series of seemingly unrelated narratives, each written in a different style — indeed, in a different genre. There is an obituary for a Scottish scientist and Nobel Prize winner, written by a colleague who clearly relishes his death. Early in the century, a train in the Scottish Highlands heads down the wrong track during a winter snowstorm, and the passengers are forced to abandon the train, resulting in the death — or is it murder? — of one of them. An inane publisher's reader summarizes the plot of a tacky hospital romance novel, which ends in a gory murder all too reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. Even a report on a contemporary academic controversy explodes into a scandal of plagiarism, shattered reputations, paranoia, and suicide — or is it murder made to look as such?
As Palliser deftly teases out each new situation, it becomes clear that they are all variations on a single outrageous theme: a distinguished figure in some intellectual pursuit — science, literature, academia — becomes obsessed with the success of a rival and schemes his demise, only to botch the job out of sheer monomania. Like the scorpion that stings itself to death, each plotter becomes a victim of his own plot; each betrayer changes places with the betrayed in an intricate dance of deception, revenge, and revelation.
A challenging, engrossing, utterly original work of art, Betrayals is also pure joy toread — a book that will make you laugh out loud, turn pages madly in pursuit of the next plot twist, and above all, marvel at the supreme ingenuity of a fictional puzzle in which the unlikeliest pieces fit together perfectly.

Charles Palliser's The Quincunx was hailed by critics as a masterpiece of historical fiction and went on to become a major bestseller. Now in his luminously inventive, wickedly funny style, Palliser brings off yet another literary coup--Betrayals--at once a hypnotic murder mystery, scathing literary parody, soap opera, and brilliant pastiche.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixing a variety of genres and forms, Palliser examines the links between fiction and deceit. July
Library Journal
Palliser continues to show his versatility (e.g., Quincunx, LJ 12/89) in this well-written, complicated satire, which accurately skewers many aspects of the book trade. Mixing various narrative forms and styles, he begins his story with the obituary of a Scottish scientist, follows with an account of a train accident that might have resulted in a murder, and ends with a book review. The narratives in between are concerned with arcane literary theories, questions of plagiarism, murders similar to those attributed to Jack the Ripper, and a behind-the-scenes look at two weekly television series, all of which touch on the theme of betrayal. In turns humorous, macabre, and mysterious, this literary pastiche will exhaust all but the most dedicated readers. For comprehensive fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/94.]-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Emily Melton
Palliser, author of the best-selling "Quincunx" (1989), is well-nigh impossible to categorize, as are his books. This one is a mystery, but it is much more than that. A series of oddly mismatched stories--the tragic tale of a train derailment in the Scottish Highlands, the laboriously detailed saga of the scandalous downfall of a leading French academician, the ludicrous misinterpretation of the plot of a murder mystery by a foolish publisher's reader, and the puzzling and pompous review of a murderer's biography--lead the reader farther and farther into a maze of mystery obfuscated by humor, allusion, and satire. Like one of those thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles, the book seems made up of tiny, unrelated pieces that will never fit together. It is only after the reader has been teased, tormented, and baffled by hidden clues and clever mindgames that Palliser finally allows all the parts to fall into place--and the answer becomes obvious, at least for astute readers. Palliser once again demonstrates that he is ingenious, witty, brilliant, and immensely talented.
From the Publisher
"An obituary tells of a Scottish scientist dying; travelers tell tales to while away the time, then one dies mysteriously; a publisher's reader reports on a trashy story; an academic scandal is hashed over; an avid television watcher offers up his diary. Then names start recurring, similar situations are alluded to. Thus does the author of The Quincunx build up this story of betrayals....Palliser uses stories within stories, black humor, and parody to make it all work."

-- Dallas Morning News

"Richly Hilarious...

These seemingly diverse narratives -- at first glance, about completely unrelated subjects -- are filled with hidden connections."

-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Ingenious in the highest degree...Some of the book will make the reader laugh out loud; some will make him shudder. Palliser has a wicked eye, an ear that misses nothing, and a virtuoso dirty mind....In each story someone becomes obsessed with a rival and plots his destruction only to become caught in a trap of his own devising; the scorpion perishes from his own sting."

-- The Boston Globe

"A Thought-Provoking and Wonderful Novel...

Let us hope that Charles Palliser carries on his idiosyncratic career by defying all expectations save one -- that he continue to produce novels reflecting his exceptional knowledge and creativity."

-- The Washington Post Book World

"Fiendishly Clever."

-- San Francisco Chronicle

From Barnes & Noble
This inventive novel unfolds through a series of seemingly unrelated narratives, all variations on a theme--a distinguished figure in intellectual pursuit & obsessed with fame becomes the victim of his own plot to knock off his rival.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345369598
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/24/1995
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384

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