Burial of the Dead by Michael Hogan

published 2008  chapter 4

Manny’d gone into town to pick up the mail. They’d had a hell of a fight. Manny didn’t want to go to the Brandos, and she didn’t like the idea of being mistaken for Matt’s wife. What the hell are we going to do at the Brandos, she asked.

We’ll talk, Matt said.

Talk? And what are we going to talk about?

Hunting, he said.

Hunting, she said.

And Mrs. Brando will show you how to cook rabbit.

Rabbit, she yelled.

Rabbit, he said.

And with that she put on the parka she’d bought at Bloomingdale’s that fall, the small woolen cap that made her look European, said she was a long way from being anybody’s wife, slammed her way out the back door and throttled the Chevy down the road to town. When she returned it was almost dark and they passed each other in the kitchen.

observations: The Petrona Remembered website (find out about it here) is just getting going but is obviously going to be a tremendous resource for crime fiction fans, as well as an appropriate memorial for Petrona/Maxine. This book was reviewed there recently, and sounded so intriguing that I bought it immediately. And I have to say, it is one of the most disconcerting and unexpected books you could ever wish to read. I have never read a book where the ground was moved under the reader so often and so expertly. The death at the centre, that of the wealthy and well-connected Emma Kost-O’Neil, is examined in great detail, as is her life. You read reports and accounts from different points of view, many of them highly convincing and believable – but contradicted by the next report. 

In all crime books it is hard to decide who is telling the truth and who is lying, and you expect some surprises about who is good and who is bad, but this one is quite head-spinning in its twists, and the way your expectations are overthrown. Early on we meet the people above – recognizable from many a murder story, the nice young couple making a life together whom we will follow through a few difficulties as they sort out their connection with the crime and the dead woman, having an argument on their way out to dinner. But everything we might be expecting from this brief scene is going to be upended. Over and over again. Characters turn up in odd places, they might or not be related to others, they might be the person mentioned in passing on an early page and appearing suddenly later on without explanation.

A quite extraordinary book – it has one rather self-indulgent section and some unnecessary characters, and it could have been shortened a bit, but still one of the most striking books I have read this year. (Though Manny is a terrible, tripping-up name for a female character, and the proof-reading is beyond bad. An altar boy in his surplus?) 

Thanks to Agatho for the tipoff.

Links on the blog: Dressing for winter weather features here and here and here.

The parka is from a fashion magazine of 1990.


  1. Moira - You know, I read that review too and wasn't sure what to expect from the book. To be candid, I wasn't sure I was even going to read it. But it does sound like one of those novels that gets one thinking - I like the word unexpected in your review. Perhaps I'll give it a go. Even with the editing issues...

  2. It wasn't a routine read by any means - and I would definitely encourage people to read reviews of it first, to decide if it was their kind of thing. But I enjoyed having my expectations thrown about, once in a while, and will definitely be looking for more books by him. I suspect it will be particularly interesting for anyone who reads a lot of crime fiction (ie you Margot!)just because you can see how clearly he is subverting the conventions - ones that you didn't even realize were coventions till reading this book. (does that make any sense at all...?)

  3. Oh, it certainly does. Nice to have a novel once in a while that makes you step outside yourself and look at your assumptions.


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