Vera Lundy's had a little trouble letting go of her high school demons, so teaching 10th-grade English might not have been the wisest career choice.
When she was a student, Vera kept a notebook detailing all her unsavory thoughts about her classmates, particularly one: "If I could find a way to get rid of Heidi Duplessis, I would. I think first I'd duct-tape her to her car, and then I'd shave off her hair with a pair of clippers. If I could kill her and get away with it, I don't think I'd hesitate.'' Then Heidi was murdered. After one of the other girls stole Vera's notebook, Vera started getting menacing phone calls and was even roughed up, causing her to retreat into herself. Years later, Vera is working on a book about the mystery surrounding Heidi’s death; unfortunately for her, the confessed killer, Ivan Schlosser, died in prison before he could be brought to trial. Now another girl has turned up strangled. She was a student at the posh, independent all-girls school that has hired Vera as a long-term substitute. Vera finds herself drawn to Jensen Willard, her smartest student, a talented if morbid writer who thrives on Vera’s assignment to keep a journal. Intended to help the students draw personal connections to Catcher in the Rye, in Jensen’s hands the journal becomes a window into dark thoughts, indeed. One night, while walking home through the dark park, Vera stumbles upon the body of yet another student—one with whom she had recently argued. As the police investigation proceeds, Vera tries to connect the dots but only succeeds in making herself look more suspicious. And then Jensen disappears, launching Vera on a quest riddled with allusions to Holden Caulfield’s lost days in New York City.
With a keen ear for the machinations of a teacher’s mind, Watson (Asta in the Wings, 2009) deftly ratchets up the tension in this riveting game of cat and mouse.