Part mystery, part exploration of adolescent psychology, McAdam’s second novel (Some Great Thing, 2004) revolves around the disappearance of a teenaged girl from an elite Canadian boarding school.
Handsome, easygoing, effortlessly self-assured Julius is the charmed son of an American diplomat. His romance with the beautiful Fallon (Fall for short) provokes the envy of classmates, especially awkward, cerebral Noel, his senior-year roommate. Thrown together by circumstance, the boys develop an ad hoc friendship, and Noel becomes a confidant for the besotted Julius. When Julius, confined after a prank, enlists his roommate as a romantic go-between, Noel’s fascination with the golden couple metastasizes into obsession. Then, just before winter vacation, Fall goes missing. It takes a while for her disappearance to make ripples beyond the cloistered world of the St. Ebury School, but eventually the police are summoned and suspicion falls on the roommates. In the novel’s second half we see both boys’ self-mythologies implode. The story is told mainly in their voices: Noel’s chilly, careful narrative contrasts with his roommate’s bubbly, almost aggressively superficial stream of consciousness. Noel’s sections have flashes of William Trevor–like darkness and insight, and the plot does eventually build momentum, but the police investigation of Fall’s disappearance is oddly halfhearted and low-key, a circumstance that serves the plot more than the mandates of law enforcement.
Smart and fitfully chilling, but puerile St. Ebury school sometimes seems less like a setting than a wallow.