A group of friends at a British college, all connected to the same charismatic scholar of Agatha Christie’s work, are torn apart by secrets and deceptions.
When Jess Walker begins to contemplate going to college, there is only one clear choice: She has to attend the university where Dr. Lorna Clay teaches. Lorna is the author of The Truants, a brilliant work arguing that great artists must destroy their personal lives to create, which has captured Jess’ imagination ever since she was given the book by her uncle. Once Jess starts college in East Anglia, she strikes up a friendship with Georgie, a wealthy socialite with a proclivity to dipping into her mother’s pill drawer; Alec, a 20-something white South African journalist on fellowship at the university; and Nick, a geology student who quickly falls for Jess. A middle child from a farming village, Jess instantly feels her life become more vibrant in the company of her exotic companions. And at the head of it all is the brilliant Lorna, who permeates the boundaries of their lives as students to attend their parties and become their confidante and, eventually, their friend, especially to Jess, who wants to follow in Lorna’s footsteps professionally and personally. But as the relationships among the five become more and more tangled, a tragedy suddenly shatters their lives, forcing Jess to confront the illusory nature of really knowing another. Aside from some slight plausibility issues (if only teenagers’ lives were changed by works of literary scholarship!), Weinberg has written one of the best thriller debuts in recent years, with all the cleverness of Ruth Ware (and, yes, even Christie herself) and a dash of Donna Tartt’s edgy darkness.
Though Christie fans may be particularly delighted, this propulsive, pitch-perfect thriller has something for everyone.