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 to read 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.