Saturday, May 12, 2007

It doesn't mean they're not after you

Thomas H Cook's The Chatham School Affair is one of my all time favorite mysteries. Yes, the plot is excellent, but unlike so many other mystery stories, it is emotionally resonant as well. I saw good notices for his newest, the Cloud of Unknowing, so I gave it a shot. In the book, a mentally ill boy drowns and the mother suspects the father. Complicating matters is that grandfather was a paranoid schizophrenic and the mother's brother suspects she is becoming unhinged as well.

I liked rather than loved this one. Cook provides all kinds of tension with a two track narrative. Long flashbacks are broken up by an conversation, which may be an interrogation, of the brother by the local police detective. This provides the dual tension as we follow the original death and the subsequent tragedies.

Cook is interested in how families can bend and break under pressure and this book is no exception. The inter-relationships of the family members provide a few very good emotional wallops. They don't have the gut punch that the Chatham School Affair's do, but they are still terribly sad.

I've heard that Cook's Red Leaves is an equal to the Chatham School Affair, so I plan to give that one a try.

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