The Twisted Thread is a book I’d never heard of by an author I’d never heard of, but it was marked as a book about boarding school in the library catalogue so I was all over that. It’s boarding school + MURDER + pregnancy scandal, with a side order of class tension, and you guys, I like all those things. Hence it was an excellent book for several days on the subway, though it never reached the point where it was so absorbing I couldn’t put it down and had to read it while brushing my teeth and cooking and before going to bed. That’s okay though. Not all books can be unputdownable (indeed it seems rather few).
Intelligent, beautiful, wealthy Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room at Armitage Academy, and the school is immediately thrown into chaos. Nobody knows how she died nor, when they discover that she had recently had a baby, what happened to her child. Madeline Christopher, an interning teacher in the English department at Armitage, becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Claire and her baby, in concert with the police officer assigned to the case, himself an Armitage alum. This is good because you are never sitting there shrieking “Go to the police you silly person! Go tell the police!” Madeline always tells the police.
The characters in The Twisted Thread are well-developed and continue to be interesting all the way through the book. A major theme of the book is that deep mistrust adolescents have of authority figures, and Bacon presents this not as, If only these kids would talk to somebody in charge!, but rather as, No damn wonder. You see the adults in Claire’s life scrambling to disclaim authority for her unnoticed pregnancy and violent death; and the point-of-view characters discover some dark secrets about Armitage’s past and present. I liked the way this all played out, although the denouement did seem to slightly discount the central point that the adults are not good at knowing what’s going on and taking care of the kids for whom they are responsible.
As for the mystery, it resolved in a way that was thematically very reasonable and followed from the clues the author gave us along the way. If that sounds like faint praise, it is — one of the viewpoint characters seemed tangential to the rest of the plot, and I couldn’t figure out why we were spending so much time with him. Then I read the end and figured out that oh, right, it’s because we need him to provide some clues that would feel too much like clues and not enough like potential red herrings if they were things that Madeline or Matt uncovered. That is not a great reason to have a viewpoint character. It felt like a cheat.
Relatedly, I have a question: Has anyone ever met someone who was achingly beautiful in real life, and everyone thought she was beautiful and no one thought otherwise? Is that a real thing? I feel like it is not! I have met people who I thought were really, really pretty but it’s a matter of personal taste and sometimes I’d be like, “Oh my God, that girl’s in my English class, isn’t she the prettiest girl in all the land? Why don’t I look like that?”, and the person I was saying it too would be like, “Her? Really?” In short, I don’t buy it. It happens all the time in fiction, and I am now officially tired of it. This is not Truth in Television. This is just that it’s really easy in a book to describe someone as being so beautiful that everyone who sees her adores her even though that’s clearly nonsense.
They read it too: Reading thru the Night, S. Krishna’s Books, Presenting Lenore, Caribousmom, Book Magic, Reviews by Lola, Life in the Thumb, Bookworm1858, Popcorn Reads, Indie Reader Houston, bookchickdi, The Literary Lollipop, and tell me if I missed yours!