VICTIM OF THE AURORA by Thomas Keneally


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Australian Keneally, a restless genre-explorer, now composes an inventive, fullblown Edwardian mystery novel set on the Antarctic ice cap, rich in effects and dazzle, short on emotional impact. Sir Anthony Piers, once dashing but now 92 and in a Los Angeles rest home overlooking the geriatric township called Sageworld, is recalling the trek with the New British South Polar Expedition in 1910 on which he was the official artist. Flashback. The young Piers is an oil painter and watercolorist with a crush on Turner landscapes, and Captain Sir Eugene Stewart thinks him ideal for capturing the long midnight lights. Also along are a photographer-cinematographer and a journalist whose productions--along with Piers'--are meant to subsidize the expedition with sales later. After six months on the cap, though, journalist Victor Henneker is murdered. Who of this utterly isolated party would kill the muckraking homosexual? Could the murderer be Forbes-Chalmers, weird survivor from a disastrous earlier expedition, the phantom figure sometimes spotted afar? Old Piers' analyses of the trek's members has an added zinger: he now knows (65 years later!) just what happened to all of them through the rest of their lives, and this double-whammy knowledge adds a sort of aura to each suspect. Suavely magnetic at -80°, with brutal aurorae and aglow with talent, but a strangely unambitious effort for the likes of T. Keneally.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich