I was excited when I got the opportunity to read The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon because I had heard really good things about her work. This novel definitely did not disappoint!
Some kids seem to have it all, and the students at prestigious Armitage Academy are great examples. Armitage is a New England prep school that prides itself in having students who not only excel academically but go on to Ivy League schools and take leadership positions in the world. Its students come from wealthy families all over the world and a lot of them seem to fit the stereotype of spoiled rich kids with a huge sense of entitlement. Among them are the elite of the elite, and Claire Harkness reigns supreme. She seems to have it all, wealth and privilege, beauty, and brains but she’s also very haughty, aloof and manipulative. And then early one morning she’s found murdered in her dorm room.
“The worst thing possible, every teacher’s private horror. A student dying on their watch. And why Claire?…the girl’s crystalline beauty and complete disdain for the adults around her had awed [Madeline]her. She hadn’t quite realized kids like Claire actually existed…At seventeen, Claire had a composure that Madeline couldn’t imagine possessing at fifty, even if her hair had managed to stay straight.”
Madeline Christopher is fresh out of grad school. Thanks to her older sister, Kate, she landed a lowly intern English Lit professor position which included being an assistant dorm supervisor in Claire’s dorm. Madeline is one of those characters you instantly like. She’s just trying to get through the day and figure out what she’s going to do next with her life. She really likes teaching but she’s just an ordinary person who finds the obvious wealth of Armitage and its students a little overwhelming. She’s a classic fish out of water, and one you want to hug and tell it will all be okay.
“Madeline felt always that she was not good enough to walk on the marble stairs or through the shady buildings. It was preposterous that schools like this still operated, were available to teenagers of all people, and even more, that she worked at one of them.”
She goes for her regular run early one morning and returns to find police, ambulances and the dorm in an uproar because Claire has been murdered. While trying to comfort one of the students, Sally, she sees Claire’s body through the doorway and realizes Claire has given birth very recently. That was a big enough shock but, even worse, where’s the newborn baby?
“But Madeline, arms still wrapped around Sally, was rooted to the floor. ‘No, no, that’s not possible. Sally, did Claire just have a baby?’…’Where’s the baby?’ Madeline found she was almost shaking Sally’s bony shoulders. Abruptly a number of details came into focus…A baby. And none of the community’s adults had even known she was pregnant. Or had they?”
Madeline, police detective Matt Corelli, and a school maintenance man are all determined to figure out who killed Claire and to find the missing baby. They know the baby, if it’s still alive, is on borrowed time without medical intervention and the proper care. Madeline can’t understand the self-protective mode most of the staff adopt instead of getting involved or being helpful to police, until secrets begin to unfold about the school, Claire, and other staff and professors.
The Twisted Thread is very artfully written. Its twists and turns kept me spellbound while the realistically drawn three-dimensional characters breathed life into the school, its students and faculty as well as the townspeople. I felt I really knew these people and their obsession with finding the killer and the baby became mine, which made the novel impossible to put down. Now I’m looking forward to reading more of Charlotte Bacon’s work!
I highly recommend The Twisted Thread for teens and adults. I believe everyone will enjoy this beautifully written mystery.
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