Its endowment was healthy enough to withstand the students who left, the students who protested, the parents and alumni who wouldn’t give money. It was Armitage: there would always be people who wanted to come here and have a little of its glory conferred on them, a scrap of its reputation. – from The Twisted Thread –
The academy was, after all, its own world, contained like a castle by a moat made not of stagnant water but of iron gates, forest, a narrow river, the school’s slight elevation above the town, and its own sense of itself. – from The Twisted Thread –
Armitage Academy is a prestigious private high school, situated on top of a hill in a rural Massachusetts town. It seems above reproach by those who look at it from the outside. But then, on a warm spring morning, the body of young Claire Harkness is found in her room. The death is suspicious, made more sinister by the fact that Claire apparently had secretly given birth only a week before…and the child is now missing.
Madeline Christopher, a teaching intern who lives in Claire’s dorm, is immediately thrown into the investigation, along with nearly every student and teacher who Claire associated with during the weeks leading up to her death. Matt Corelli, a local detective with a secret in his past, along with his partner Vernon (a meat-eater turned vegan), are tasked with cracking the case…but as the days go by, they find themselves uncovering not just the clues to a possible murder, but the dark history secreted behind the perfect veneer of the school.
Charlotte Bacon takes her readers deep behind the walls of a private school and uncovers the darker side to the world of the privileged and wealthy. The plot unwinds slowly and is narrated in multiple points of view. Bacon excels in setting scene, providing lush descriptions of the New England countryside surrounding Armitage Academy.
The Twisted Thread is loaded with characters: Jim the maintenance man, Claire’s boyfriend (and prime suspect) Scotty Johnston, Fred the art teacher, Porter the stately head of administration, a raft of girls who are intertwined in Claire’s social circle, along with Madeline, Vernon and Matt. Author Charlotte Bacon also delves deeply into several other teachers’ lives as well. Character point of view alternates by chapter. All of these voices, along with their complex histories, began to weigh down the novel for me. Not only was it sometimes difficult to keep all their lives separate, but often the threads of their pasts seemed irrelevant to the overall plot of the book. About mid-way through this novel, I wished that Bacon had focused her plot more on a handful of characters rather than an entire school.
The Twisted Thread is not a fast-paced thriller, but more of a literary mystery. Bacon gives the reader some false leads which adds tension to the narrative and keeps the reader guessing as to the final outcome.
I read an Advance Readers Edition of this book, and so, in fairness to the author, there may have been some late editing which resolved some of the issues I had with the novel – namely that there was just too many minor characters and their backgrounds which slowed the pace of this mystery to a crawl. On the upside, Bacon does an admirable job in revealing the political underpinnings and moral coverups of institutions which cater to the wealthy.
- Quality of Writing:
I have read a previous novel by this author: Lost Geography which I greatly enjoyed and can recommend (read my review).
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review through the Library Thing Early Review Program.