The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon
“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.”
May I begin by saying wow? The Twisted Thread exceeded my every expectation; from plot to characters, this book is spot on. I have to say that I’m not usually a big fan of mysteries (sure I went through a Joanne Fluke faze, but that was more about the cookies than the murders). The Twisted Thread, however, does not emphasis the “murder mystery” aspect so much as the impact that the murder has on the lives of the people involved with Armitage. While the investigation into Claire’s murder does proceed throughout the novel, the writing holds a certain air of literariness that seems to pull it out of the ranks of “mystery” and place it somewhere closer to a Jodi Picoult novel.
The chapters revolve around four main characters, Madeline, the English teacher who seems to do more sleuthing than the police officers, Fred, the art teacher who wants more art and a little less teaching, Jim, the middle aged and divorced maintenance man who looks after his aging mother, and Matt, the police officer and former Armitage student who is forced to revisit unpleasant memories when Claire turns up dead. The real beauty of this story is the complex web woven between all of the characters, the way their stories all come together and break apart. This method of storytelling allows the reader to experience the novel in the fullest, most fulfilling way possible. Each character brings their own set of experiences, thoughts, and insecurities to the story, creating what I have now dubbed, the uber subplot. I truly enjoy the fact that each character has their own story that unfolds simultaneously to the major plot – this obviously being the ongoing murder investigation.
Now on to my one complaint (you knew that was coming, didn’t you). This book has no AHA! moment. I don’t just mean the moment where you find out who the murderer was and all that jazz. Even if you guessed who the murderer was half way through the book (which I did), there should still be a moment where all of the pieces click perfectly into place and everything becomes crystal clear. (For example, my favorite AHA! moment of all time is when Harry Potter discovers the existence of the Deathly Hallows and suddenly everything makes sense, even the title. In other words, the book’s universe has to align and converge into one perfect moment of clarity that alters the course of the novel). Charlotte Bacon tries to create this moment, but falls short – she had some twisted threads, so to speak. Really, the main problem is that she forgot to put the gun she wanted to use in the last act on the table during the first. The introduction of completely new information without hints preceding it deflates the AHA! moment and makes it more of a “well…okay” moment.
The big picture: The Twisted Thread is a good, thought-provoking novel with character development that warmed the cockles of my heart. I hate, hate, hate underdeveloped characters (I’m looking at you Stephenie Meyer).