Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

The Twisted Thread
Author: Charlotte Bacon
Publication: Voice; Original edition (June 14, 2011)

Description: When beautiful but aloof Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room one spring morning, prestigious Armitage Academy is shaken to its core. Everyone connected to school, and to Claire, finds their lives upended, from the local police detective who has a personal history with the academy, to the various faculty and staff whose lives are immersed in the daily rituals associated with it. Everyone wants to know how Claire died, at whose hands, and more importantly, where the baby that she recently gave birth to is--a baby that almost no one, except her small innermost circle, knew she was carrying.

At the center of the investigation is Madeline Christopher, an intern in the English department who is forced to examine the nature of the relationship between the school's students and the adults meant to guide them. As the case unravels, the dark intricacies of adolescent privilege at a powerful institution are exposed, and both teachers and students emerge as suspects as the novel rushes to its thrilling conclusion.

With The Twisted Thread, Charlotte Bacon has crafted a gripping and suspenseful story in the tradition of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, one that pulls back the curtain on the lives of the young and privileged.

My Thoughts: I very much enjoyed this complex, moody mystery. Luckily, I am not the sort of reader who plays detective along with the book's main character and tries to solve the crime. This one was filled with a large cast of characters who all had their own agendas. And everyone had secrets! At one point I was sure that everyone was guilty.

I thought that the characters were well-developed and intriguing. I especially liked Madeline who was at this exclusive school mainly because her sister had an in and she had no better prospects. It was fascinating to watch her learn more about the school and discover that she had a real gift for teaching. I also liked Matt who was an Armitage boy who chose to become a cop. He had been a homicide detective in Philadelphia until he burned out and is now back home working for the local police department.

Then there are the teachers at the school who are variously quirky and suspicious. From the science teacher who seems particularly lifeless to the French teacher who is clinging to her French heritage. Fred, the art teacher and an Armitage graduate, deals with his own issues as he learns some uncomfortable things about his grandfather who was one the Headmaster of the school. He is also Madeline's best friend at the school.

Then there are the students. We see Claire only through the eyes of those who know her. She is bright, beautiful, and aloof. She was also capable of surprising kindness. We learn about a secret society and the girls who will do anything to keep the secrets.

The language and writing was lush and descriptive. I found myself chuckling sometimes at the apt turns of phrase. The view into the world of wealth, privilege and entitlement was fascinating. Madeline's viewpoint as a  sort-of outsider provided clarity.

I recommend this mystery to readers who want a glimpse into the world of exclusive private schools and those who inhabit them. It was a fascinating and compelling read.

Favorite Quote:
Parents, phones, sobbing, usually all three at once, and all of it threaded through with visits from the police -- tall ones, short ones, thin ones, fat. Ones in plainclothes, ones in hats. When her mind started to warp horror into Dr. Seuss, Madeline knew she needed a break. Bit it wasn't forthcoming.
I got this ARC through the Amazon Vine program. You can get it in paperback at Amazon too. 


  1. Oh I love the sound of this and am fascinated at the mystery involved and the secrets held inside the walls of the school. Your description has me ready to buy this one next time I hit the bookstore. Thanks!

  2. Sounds good.
    I recently finished "The Liar Society" which also is a mystery that plays at a private school and enjoyed this book a lot. So I think I will give "The twisted thread" a chance

  3. Love the sound of this one. I have a copy from Netgalley and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the mystery soon! :)

  4. I'm not too happy it's being compared with The Secret History as I totally hated that book. Will probably skip on this one even though I love the cover.


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