Nathan has never been able to forget the worst night of his life: the party that led to the sudden, shocking death of a young woman. Only he and Bob, an untrustworthy old acquaintance, know what really happened and they have resolved to keep it that way. But one rainy night, years later, Bob appears at Nathan's door with terrifying news, and old wounds are suddenly reopened, threatening to tear Nathan's whole world apart. Because Nathan has his own secrets now. Secrets that could destroy everything he has fought to build. And maybe Bob doesn't realise just how far Nathan will go to protect them…
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Some questions to discuss with your Reading Group.
Guilt is a central theme of Burial. In what way does guilt manifest itself in the novel? What is the author saying about the nature of guilt and what it does to a person? How is guilt overcome?
Another prominent theme is the question of the existence of ghosts – metaphorically and spiritually. What types of ghost haunt the novel? How do the characters seek to ‘exorcise’ them?
‘There stood Bob; hunched over, grinning in the darkness and rain. Saying: “Hello, mate.”’ (p1) From the beginning, we are introduced to Bob as an untrustworthy character. How does Nathan and Bob’s relationship change over the course of the novel? In what ways do Bob’s actions lead to Nathan getting the life he has always wanted?
The middle section of the story deals with Nathan’s return to the ‘real world’ and specifically the world of work. Is his occupation symbolic? What about his relationships with his colleagues (particularly Justin and Amarita)?
In what ways is the Nathan that meets Elise different to the Nathan that meets Holly? Why do you think he decides to find Holly?
‘He said, “Holly, you don’t have to feel guilty for laughing.” Her long silence intensified. “Why do you say that?” “I don’t know.” She kept looking at him, as if suspecting they knew each other from way back, from long ago.’ (p116) Does the knowledge Nathan holds about Elise’s death change your perception of him? How moral a character is he? Is Burial a book with a strong moral viewpoint?
In the final act, external forces compromise Nathan’s new life. He risks everything to stop them. In what ways has Nathan changed over the course of the entire book? Would you agree that he moves from a passive character (for example, in his relationship with Sara) to an active one (in his final confrontation with Bob)?
In Chapter 39, the conversation between Jacki and Nathan is deceptively multi-layered. What is Jacki actually saying to Nathan? How much does she know? Would you agree that she is covering for him? Why?
At the end of the novel, how does the truth about Bob’s motivations alter your perception of him?
Neil Cross is the creator and sole writer of the critically acclaimed BBC America crime series Luther. In 2011, Cross was awarded the Edgar Award for Best Teleplay for episode one of Luther. He is the author of the thriller Burial and lives with his family in Wellington, New Zealand. Visit him online at Neil-Cross.com.