The Chatham School Affair Paperback – Oct 12 2000
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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,... Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2003 by Eileen S. Ruth
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. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2002
I read the book, and enjoyed it very much, but I loved the whole ending better than the body of the book.Published on June 10 2002
Cook writes a ckassic five act trgedy with the bizarre twist in the fifth act that unravels the lives of everyone. Read morePublished on April 17 2002 by Charles Andrews
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2002 by Phillip Schoppy
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. Read morePublished on June 12 2001 by Andy Edie
Perhaps I have become desensitized, but I found the novel to be misleading; Cook spends a great deal of time foreshadowing a tragic, haunting event that ends up seeming... Read morePublished on Sept. 21 2000 by Nick O.
One cannot be prepared for one's first Thomas H Cook book. It is a unique, disturbing, and edifying experience. Read morePublished on Aug. 20 2000 by Joseph L Burke