The Unburied by Charles Palliser

Charles Palliser is my favorite author after Umberto Eco, writing as he does in the most lucid, erudite, intellectual and bawdy style that sucks you into the vivid, dirty, and virulent world of Victorian, post-Industrial England. His settings are the traditional British country house or vicarage, manor or townhouse, and his Dickensian-named characters show off the best and worst qualities of humanity. For all their quiet, tea-drinking mannerisms and genteel ways of speaking, these characters are among the most inept, foolish, clueless, stupid, venal and cruelly malign in modern literature.

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In Palliser’s twist on the traditional Christmas ghost story, The Unburied, Dr. Edward Courtine comes to the small British town of Thurchester to see his old school “friend” Austin Fickling for Christmas, and to see the town’s historic church and related records. Of course, being a church, there is a ghost. And a historical mystery. And then a murder, which happens moments after Edward and Austin visit the victim. How it all turns and twists together creates a memorable murder mystery/ghost story/ Christmas tale that will make you view the holiday season in a less-than-thrilled light.

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It is very much written in an academia tone, but it moves at the pace of a whirlwind, so anyone who enjoys British literature, the books of Charles Dickens, or even history, will enjoy this book. The sense of menace creeps up on you very subtly, and there are occasions when you – ok, when I – found myself snapping at Edward’s stupidity. “Hello, the answer is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!!!!” I caught myself shouting before I pulled it together and reminded myself it’s just a book.

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In an early scene, Edward dines with Austin, with whom he is staying, in a horrible, freezing cold old house that is where the mystery kicks off. Austin is acting quite passively-aggressively nasty to Edward as he prepares their meal of chops and onions……not well, I would add.

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“After your long journey,” he went on, “I thought you’d like to stay in tonight, and I’ll cook our supper.”  “As you did in the old days,” I exclaimed. “Do you not recall? When we lodged at Sidney Street, we used to take turns to grill chops?”…………. Austin nodded. “Do you remember your ‘chops St. Lawrence’ as you called them? Burnt to a crisp like the poor saint.”

Pork chops with caramelized onions in a mustard-cream sauce seemed just the ticket on this chilly night, plus they are simple to make and best of all, delicious. This is the method that worked for me, based on my own recipe.

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INGREDIENTS
4 pork chops, bone out, 1/2 inch thick each
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grain Dijon mustard
4 red onions, sliced into rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup red wine

METHOD

Heat the oven to 400F.

Start with the onions. Put the olive oil and butter into a nonstick skillet and melt. Add the onions, and stir so all is glossy and covered. Sprinkle over the sugar, then let the onions cook slowly and brown underneath, stirring occasionally. This will probably take you a good 45 minutes, if not longer.

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At the 30-minute mark, pour in the red wine. Continue stirring and cooking.

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At the end of the cooking, you will have a pile of deliciously warm, brown-tinted caramelized onions that are sweet and have a marvelous soft texture.

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In the same pan heated to medium-high, add the pork chops, and season with salt and pepper. Sear each side for 5 minutes, then put the cast-iron pan with the chops into the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let the chops rest, and put the pan back on the stove over a medium burner.

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Add the grain Dijon mustard and stir around. Then pour in the heavy cream and let it thicken and cook. Don’t let it curdle.

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To be quintessentially British, serve the sizzling hot chops with the Dijon-cream sauce poured over, the onions piled glossily on one side, and some classic mushy peas on the other. Sooooooo good and easy, too!

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14 thoughts on “The Unburied by Charles Palliser

  1. Mmm! Caramelized onions. I can almost smell them from here. 😉 Love! The recipe looks really easy and delicious!

    I’m heading over to Goodreads to check out the book now. Sounds like a good one. I’ve read some Dickens–A Christmas Carol of course. ❤💚❤ You always have the neatest books to share!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jen! The recipe was really simple but that’s what makes it so good, I think. I really love the book, and it’s very engrossing. Park historical mystery, part murder mystery, part ghost story. But with a Twist. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Set aside a good 3 or 4 hours, because if you’re like me, you’ll get hooked in immediately and not want to put it down.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what I love to hear! I love a book that can keep me from my chores, lol. ❤ I added it. I’m still planning on reading Jack Sparks this month because I never got to it in Oct. Will I ever catch up? Lol. Will let you know how that goes. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Have you ever tried Audible? It’s sort of them turned a books on tape. It makes it so much easier to do housework and run errands and drive from place to place if you can listen to these books at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I find it harder and harder to have time to just sit and read and I kill book so I’ve listen to Audible for a few of my blog posts. Hopefully that is not considered cheating. LOL! I think Jack Sparks might be on Audible. That might be your way of killing two birds with one stone. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes! I have audible and love it so much. We just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I’m on to the second now. I don’t know what I’d do without it! My favorite feature is being able to change the speed. It’s spoiled me so bad and I don’t want to use Cd’s anymore, lol! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Right? The first time I used Audible was a few blog posts back when I listened to “Rebecca.” I was hooked! Between podcasts, Audible, Amazon Prime shipping, and streaming TV, I’m surprised I even leave the house anymore. 🙂

        Like

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