LETTER PERFECT by Charles P. Crawford


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Harking back to Bad Fall, Crawford picks up essentially the same intriguing, insidious plot and sets it down in exactly the same spot--Louella, Pennsylvania. Once again an Everyteen--Chad Winston by name--is sucked into and ultimately sacrificed to the malicious scheming of a supposed best friend, here conniving B.J. who's sore as hell about the F that both he and Chad received for cheating on an English test. Small wonder then that the victim of the ""perfect crime"" B.J. plans as just a goof turns out to be English teacher Mr. Patterson who, the boys learn, had suffered a breakdown during Navy basic training. In short order the theoretical crime of blackmail is suddenly being played out in deadly earnest, with Mr. P. resigning and an eventually repentant Chad renouncing his friend. As in the earlier novel, there are all sorts of allusions to that first and most precipitous fall (it's no coincidence Chad's class is studying Paradise Lost) and in Crawford's schema no one is an innocent, least of all Mr. Patterson who gets off on sadistically badgering his pupils. Yet original sin seems far too easy an out to account for, much less explain, decent Chad's capitulation to B.J. And likewise the sudden transformation of Mr. Patterson from classroom tormentor into almost Christ-like savior (he ""redeems"" Chad by taking the rap for the joints B.J. has planted on Chad) is equally unconvincing. Still at surface level this does work: there's a lot of familiar wisecracking that makes the boys' actions all the more unsettling, and the super-seductive story draws you on from beginning to inexorable end.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton