I finished this book about five minutes ago. I've been practically unable to put it down since I picked it up yesterday morning (screw all your practical reasons for not reading like work, socializing, food... I mean, who really needs to sleep, anyway?).
Basic premise: In the year 2057, a domineering aristocrat has financed the reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral to its prior glory (it was decimated in a Nazi blitz in 1940). To make the cathedral historically accurate, she's shanghaied every historian in the UK to search out the artifacts. As historians, each is prepped in his or her scholarly field, then sent through time to observe history in the making. Unfortunately, the safeguards fail and a historian accidentally brings something back from the Victorian era, potentially altering the space-time continuum and putting the threads of reality dangerously close to paradox.
Enter Ned, a time-lapse sufferer, who, under Lady Shrapnell's insistence, has made far too many time jumps in too short a timeframe and come close to a nervous collapse. He disappears into the Victorian era to hide from the shrill matron and try to set right the fabric of time. On the way, he meets an affectionate bulldog, a bumbling Oxford don, a proprietary pussycat, and prevents a Classics major from meeting his One True Love. The historians try to fix time and find the lost artifact (the bishop's bird stump) before the universe implodes.
That, and there's a lot of adjustment to Spiritualism, Victorian manners, and jokes about Jeeves, Lord Peter Whimsey, discussion on the nature of a good mystery (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayrs, Wilkie Collins, et. al), and a few church bazaars with the dreaded jumble sales.
The writing is phenomenal. I can't believe I hadn't read Connie Willis before now! This book had me laughing aloud and wishing there was more so that I wouldn't be done yet. I'm definitely reading some of her other stuff. I figured out the twists partway through, but that's mainly because I've read a lot of mysteries. It didn't hamper my enjoyment at all. In fact, I liked knowing more than the heroes (though, to be fair, I am not time-lagged and hallucinating. I am merely an insomniac). To say nothing of the cats (or the dog, who was quite lovable) and the time-traveling historians. TIME TRAVELING HISTORIANS.
So yeah. This is a great book. Go read it.