The Twisted Thread

( 14 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Twisted Thread

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Bacon's multifaceted first novel, untidy Madeline Christopher, an "intern" English teacher at Armitage Academy, an elite New England boarding school, returns from her morning jog to learn that a student of hers, Claire Harkness, has been killed in her dorm room. Claire, who had concealed a pregnancy, had recently given birth, though there's no sign of the child. Madeline, who uncovers a malevolent clique that turns against her, shares her information with handsome detective Matt Corelli, who has his own past with the school. While suspicion swirls around Claire's boyfriend, Scotty Johnston, tension mounts between working-class staff, students, and town residents. Dropped rather than twisted plot threads and a lack of actual detection may disappoint whodunit purists, but appealing characters and the intelligent depiction of an insular community hold attention throughout. Bacon's short story collection, A Private State, won the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction in 1998. (June)
Kirkus Reviews

Murder is added to the curriculum at a posh boarding school.

Claire was beautiful, smart and rich. Everybody at Armitage Academy knew that. But no one admitted to knowing she was pregnant until she lay dead on her dorm-room floor, her head bashed in and her body revealing that she had recently given birth. Why did she die, and where is her infant? These questions become the problems of local cops Vernon Cates and Matt Corelli, who are also saddled with the conflicts between patrician students and working-class townies. Matt, who attended Armitage until a trumped-up charge of plagiarism led to his dismissal, is attracted to Madeline Christopher, a new teacher who's guilt-stricken for not having noticed Claire's pregnancy or known about an old-school tradition of rather mean-spirited hazing, led most recently by Claire and a cadre of her snobbish friends until Claire did a turnabout and tried to democratize the group. Claire remained close-mouthed, however, about the father of her child, although most observers suspect her boyfriend Scotty. The scandal threatens the academy's reputation and fund-raising efforts among well-heeled parents who insist on removing their children or blanket them with lawyers. Claire's journal, which finally provides the reason for her death, reveals her determination to cause the utmost embarrassment to the school and its staff.

A long-winded tome whose creator (Split Estate, 2008, etc.) excels only in proving that uninteresting characters make uninteresting reading.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401341503
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 6/14/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,441,273
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Bacon graduated from Harvard University and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. Her published books include A Private State, Lost Geography, There Is Room for You and Split Estate. Her debut collection of stories, A Private State, won the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction in 1997.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

4 Star

(3)

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(7)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2012

    A Decent Suspense Novel

    Summary: 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.


    Review: This book has a good plot and the storyline is solid. It’s been done before, but not tired out. It is full of intrigue, mystery, complicated social themes, and likeable characters. The novel itself had a lot of potential, but seemed to go the safe route with predictable outcomes and twists you could see coming a mile away. The author spent too much time trying to build the history of the school and the backgrounds of the character; it became almost a boring interlude to the main story. There was the expected conflict between the privileged youth from the boarding school and the regular people in the town below. Overall, Bacon’s writing was solid and she had a good narrative. The characters were likeable and dealt with real-life problems and situations. It also gave good insight into the life of privileged teens and what goes on behind the closed doors of a prestigious boarding school. This book didn’t blow me away, but it was a good book and is worth reading.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book for free in return for an honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Mystery

    The Twisted Thread is a sneak peek behind the secret and lies festering at a New England prep school. Madeline is the fish-out-of-water who is not only still trying to figure out her surroundings, but is now thrust in the middle of a murder and missing person investigation.

    Claire is your typical (seemingly), beautiful, "popular girl" who has suddenly turned up dead in her dorm room. Not only that, apparently she was secretly pregnant, had just delivered, and to top it all off the baby is now missing. Baby Daddy TBD.

    Madeline finds herself trying to get to the bottom of the sordid story by talking to everyone who knew Claire. The "mean girls" at Armitage Academy are members of Claire's secret society and possibly the best candidates for the cover up. It seems that Claire also had quite a few boyfriends and everyone is a suspect. The teachers are keeping secrets also and I enjoyed trying to get to the bottom of all of their mysteries.

    Madeline has a couple of love interests herself. When not teaching or detecting, she has some well-written moments with each of them. With Armitage-alumni-turned-cop, Matt, being my fave. No Thunder-Bolt of Destiny here.

    The story is told from multiple points of view which can sometimes distract from the narrative rather than add to it. The mystery plot is a good one and the ultimate villain is a surprise at the end. Some of the other sub-plots are just not as strong. Overall, I enjoyed The Twisted Thread and the mystery kept me entertained.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A good mystery with too many voices

    Charlotte Bacon's The Twisted Thread started out so strong for me. The story of a popular teen girl found dead in her room at the prestigious Armitage boarding school, and the mystery of how she died and who took her newborn baby had so much potential, with writing that was so perceptive, such as this: "Being responsible for the transmission of American literature to four classes of intelligent, slouching adolescents sometimes struck Madeline as a task more ludicrous than ending dependence on foreign oil." and "She hated this sensation, the knowledge, only half-admitted most of the time, that the world could crack wide at any moment, and that you would never, despite wit, fiscal prudence, or luck be entirely prepared for what might happen next." I liked the characters of Madeline, the young teacher at the school and Matt, a police officer who attended Armitage years ago. I also liked Matt's cop partner, Vernon, the formerly-overweight, now-health-conscious family man. If the story had focused on these characters and the mystery of what happened to the dead girl, it would have been a pretty good book. Unfortunately, the author introduces too many characters, along with their back stories, which instead of deepening the plot, at times took away from it and confused me. There is the maintenance man, his mother, his boss, many, many teachers at the school, and a clique of mean girls. It was hard to keep characters straight, and many times I had to stop and ask myself, "wait- who is this again?" There were too many subplots that went nowhere. As I got to the end of the story, some of the threads came together and the resolution was ultimately satisfying, but the author would have had a much better book if she concentrated on only a few of the voices. She had a lot to say about privilege, class, family and the culture of private schools, but it sometimes got drowned out by too much noise.

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    Not For Me

    I have to say that I thought the novel was okay, but I wasn't as enamored by it as I'd hope to be. It was interesting, but at the same time I never felt any true connections with the many characters introduced within the story. I think a lot of readers will really enjoy this novel, but for me personally, there was just too much going on-too many characters were brought to the forefront in an attempt to create confusion and suspense, but I'd much rather have had less characters/confusion and more focus on the main characters and their secrets as that alone can create riveting suspense.

    While I do think that Bacon did a great job keeping the truth hidden from the reader until the big reveal at the end, I do have to admit that at times I just wasn't interested in the story and, truth be told, I thought about casting the novel aside as a whole. I just didn't feel like this novel was very original, and though I didn't know who the murderer was, and I was surprised in the end, I do think this novel is very similar to other books/movies I've read in that a young woman is murdered at a school, suspicion is cast upon her teachers/boyfriend, and there happens to be an underground organization on campus that delves in risqué behavior and may be behind the murder. Don't get me wrong, I thought the novel was okay, I just wasn't riveted or too surprised while I read. Two stars.

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    Great summer mystery

    The Twisted Thread follows English teacher intern Madeline, art teacher Fred, detective Matt, and facilities handyman Jim as they each play their parts trying to unravel how the unthinkable has happened at the prestigious Armitage Academy. They start with Claire's death and the disappearance of her baby and work their way backwards through Claire's actions and motives to figure out what really happened. Following four different narrators was a bit challenging in the beginning, while I was still getting to know all of them. Though the point of view changes, the story never retraces its steps so that we see the same even through different eyes. Usually, I really appreciate that! This time, however, I do have to admit to some flipping back and forth trying to figure out why I was suddenly dumped into the head of someone I'd just met. Fred and Matt both interact with Madeline a lot, so the changing point of view, sometimes in the same scene (but different chapters!), seemed unneccesarily confusing in a few places, especially without the help of backing up the action a little bit so that the reader can get their bearings.

    Of all our narrators, Madeline is the star of the show. She struggles with a lot of guilt because she didn't notice anything wrong (or preggers) with Claire, her student and resident in her dorm. She is also struggling to figure out what to do with her life. It is the emotional ringer of riding out the aftermath of Claire's death with the remaining students on campus that finally allows/makes her kind of grow up and make Real Life Decisions. The absence of any teen narrators in this high school boarding school book makes the adult hand-wringing a little more pronounced. It's not something that bothered me at all. It never veered into preachy or overly dramatic; it was all very believable. Still, I think it'll be a turn-off to some teen readers who may construe it as just more "kids these days" criticism. So while there is nothing in this book that would make me hesitate giving it to a high schooler to read, it's definitely not the book for a reader of primarily young adult literature who is looking for a good boarding school mystery.

    That said, it is dead high school senior Claire, or at least her presence/memory, that brings depth to the stories in ways that I can't share without spoiling it for you. Just trust me when I say that the mystery goes far beyond how beautiful, intelligent, priviedged, and ultimately more complicated than anyone dared guess Claire Harkness died. This is a great summer mystery.


    Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    recommend

    Armitage Academy seems like the best palce to send your kids. But is this really the case. A student, Claire is found dead in her room. Then it is discovered that she had just delivered a baby. A teacher Madeline Christopher sets out on a path to find the killer and the baby. What she learns about Claire and herself will keep you reading. Would recommend for any suspense fan.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Summer read

    Armitage Academy, a prep school is the type of place most people would like to send their children, or is it?

    The story starts off with Madeline, an intern at the school going out for a run. As she returns to the school to begin her day she is met with police and an ambulance. Claire Harkness, the most poupular senior is found dead by another student. To make matters worse they find out that she had been pregnant and had the baby. Several of the girls had known about it and taken a vow of silence. They provided help to her and the baby. Now that Claire is dead, they realize the baby is dead. The intern pairs up with Matt Corelli, a former student of the school to figure out who killed Claire and where the baby is. What Madeline learns is that there is a secret society and Claire was the head of it. That is why the girls helped hide her pregnancy. The question is, why didn't she tell anyone, as in an adult about her pregnancy or the birth of the child? The motives and secrets become clearer with each twist.
    The premise was excellent. The story told from different points of view did not work as well for me as in some books. All in all I would recommend this as a nice weekend or summer read. This is not a book I would probably pick up and read again. That saddens me because the premise gave me so much hope and it fell a little short.

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