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The Chatham School Affair [Mass Market Paperback]

Thomas H. Cook
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1997
Attorney Henry Griswald has a secret: the truth behind the tragic events the world knew as the Chatham School Affair, the controversial tragedy that destroyed five lives, shattered a quiet community, and forever scarred the young boy. Layer by layer, in The Chatham School Affair, Cook paints a stunning portrait of a woman, a school, and a town in which passionate violence seems impossible...and inevitable. "Thomas Cook's night visions, seen through a lens darkly, are haunting," raved the New York Times Book Review, and The Chatham School Affair will cement this superb writer's position as one of crime fiction's most prodigious talents, a master of the unexpected ending.

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From Amazon

In 1926 Henry Griswald was a kid, a student of the lovely and unusual Elizabeth Channing, who had recently arrived in his coastal Massachusetts village to teach art at a private school run by his father. Decades later, the people of Henry's village are still racked by guilt and troubled by uncertainty--who, or what, drove Miss Channing to madness and murder? Henry Griswald, narrator of The Chatham School Affair, holds the key. Using the same dark, brooding tone that permeated Breakheart Hill, Thomas Cook has crafted a disturbing yet entertaining psychological thriller. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Like the best of his crime-writing colleagues, Cook (Breakheart Hill) uses the genre to open a window onto the human condition. In this literate, compelling novel, he observes the lives of people doomed to fates beyond their control and imagination. One character here comments: "If you look back on your life and ask, What did I do?, then it means that you didn't do anything." Elizabeth Channing is trying to change the path of her life as, in 1926, she arrives to teach art at a small boys' school located in the Cape Cod village of Chatham. Believing that "life is best lived at the edge of folly," she immediately enthralls the novel's narrator, Henry, the headmaster's son. But Elizabeth is drawn to a fellow teacher, Leland Reed, a freethinker who is unhappily married and has begun to have serious doubts about his life. The inevitable tragedy and its aftermath is narrated by a mature, melancholy Henry looking back at the strange, bleak fates of those involved. Cook is a marvelous stylist, gracing his prose with splendid observations about people and the lush, potentially lethal landscape surrounding them. Events accelerate with increasing force, but few readers will be prepared for the surprise that awaits at novel's end. Literary boundaries mean little to Cook; crime fiction is much the better for that.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful affair Oct. 26 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Thomas H. Cook's "The Chatham School Affair" is a different type of read from the sort I usually tackle, and my first novel authored by Cook.

I'm an impatient fan of the suspenseful page-turner. Reading this novel was a refreshing read. I likened it more to literary fiction than the contemporary thriller or suspense/mystery.

The prose is flawlessly written in a style so descriptive, I was moved with the characters' own emotions and felt surrounded in Cook's settings.

The actual story moves brilliantly from past to present, focusing more on the events of the past. It is the narrator's recollection of a series of events that lead to a series of deaths in small-town Massachusetts, in the late 1920's.

Despite the slower pace than that which I was used to, I found myself reading on, compelled to answer Cook's chief question, "What really happened at Black Pond that day?"

The ending ties all together neatly and unexpectedly, though there were some descriptive passages in the middle that could have been eliminated or shortened.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Chatham Affair Nov. 26 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This sensitively written book is one of Thomas Cook's finest. He introduces not only the characters with a flourish - but embraces the entire surroundings of the community, thus, creating an atmosphere conducive to relaxing. The reader enters a world of slower living in a beautiful location. I, myself, have frequented just such a place and have considered it to be the first step into heaven. In fact, in reading this, I was able to once again hear the ocean breeze rustling through the scrub pines. It created a certain nostalgia in my soul and reminded me, once more, that people are similiar - no matter what period in time they exist.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another good read from Mr. Cook Sept. 5 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Thomas Cook appears to use a similar theme in many of his psychological mysteries: the conflict between passion/impulse and the need to do good for others and society. His books also present the theme of what irrevocable damage can be done by a particular deed or behavior. His technique of telegraphing inward, working from the future to the present is very interesting as a literary technique. I enjoy his novels immensely. They are intelligent and page-turners.
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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read the book, and enjoyed it very much, but I loved the whole ending better than the body of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Five Act Tragedy April 17 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Cook writes a ckassic five act trgedy with the bizarre twist in the fifth act that unravels the lives of everyone. A novel with its own rhythm, I would not recommend it to some who likes one seat readings.
I compare it to Stoppard's "Rosencranz and Gildenstern Are Dead" in that a third party observes and ultimately misinterprets the actions of the main story and by doing so destroys everyone. A thoughtful piece that is worth investing aa few sittings to fully enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great book!! One of the best!! Jan. 24 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I loved this novel! The story and the characters were outstanding and the pace was pretty good. The plot revolves around a mystery that happened in the 1920's (book takes place in the 90's) that is still having an affect on some people. In 1926 two teachers at Chatham were involved in a forbidden romance which lead to some very disturbing incidents in May of 1927.
The writing was dark and depressing at times and the novel did slow down in the middle a bit. However, the characters were wonderful and I felt myself rooting for the various players at one point or another. When I can to the end of the book, I was left speechless and stunned. This indeed is one of the best book out there. I highly recommend this novel!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars Dec 15 2001
By xyz
Format:Mass Market Paperback
My only complaint about the book is the simple story does not really seem to merit as many as 290+ pages the book contains. As a result of this, the story seems to drag a bit in the middle, where the author became a bit rhetorical about how the characters were being trapped and longed for freedom. He seemed to have tried to hammer the message into the readers' heads a bit too hard.
But over all, it's a very good book. It's actually not so much a suspenseful mystery as a simple but compelling story about the folly of life. By letting the readers witness the whole incident through the eyes of the adolescent Henry Griswald, Cook somehow makes us grow with Henry and learn a lesson with Henry: The more you try to defy, the more you will get hurt in the end; the more arrogant you let yourself be, the more stupid you will eventually feel.
The main theme of the book is well echoed by people's testimonies in the court raising nothing but circumstantial evidence against Channing and Reed. The jurors, and probably the readers as well, were encouraged to link all the dots in whatever way they pleased. Some tried to eagerly link the dots they saw with their wildest imaginations, seeing an exotic picture behind. But more often than not, the TRUE picture might be nothing more than just a mundane drawing of the most mediocre quality.
Recognizing this humbling truth is the core of the mystery of the book. In return, the mysterious way the truth is revealed makes this truth all the more compelling.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Cook goes to the well once too often June 12 2001
Format:Hardcover
The two star rating may be a bit unfair, because if I had read 'The Chatham School Affair' before I read 'Breakheart Hill' I probably would have liked it much more. As it was, I was disappointed because I felt like I was reading 'Breakheart Hill' all over again.
Thomas H. Cook is an extremely gifted writer, and this book should probably not be missed. Unfortunately, I think the book was unoriginal.
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