Wednesday, October 6

Carol Goodman: Arcadia Falls

A young widow battling to make ends meet accepts a dream job at an exclusive arts school, a place where not only can she pursue her doctoral thesis (which addresses the life and work of the school’s co-founders) but ensure the quality of her daughter’s education.
No sooner does she arrive when a tragic accident claims the life of one of the school’s most promising students. Reminded of her own recent loss and troubled by her daughter’s emotional distance, she throws herself into her research and soon discovers the private diary of one of the school’s founders. What she reads within its pages, together with what she picks up from the student body and the attitude of the local sheriff, leads her to suspect that the student’s death was no accident after all. But she has no real proof and the school is riddled with suspects, from the elderly head mistress right down to a competitive classmate of the dead girl.
The more she investigates the past, the more enlightened she becomes about the present, until finally, with the ‘suicide’ of a colleague, everything falls into place. However, her knowledge has put her, and by proxy, her daughter, in grave danger.
It is only with the help of the sheriff that she eventually manages to save herself, her daughter and another student from murderous intent and achieve the life she had hoped to have when she first accepted the teaching position.
I feel this mystery novel, with decidedly gothic overtones, overreaches itself. The plot is unnecessarily convoluted and the characters’ motivation thin at best. I couldn’t relate to the heroine at all. She, like most of the other characters, simply didn’t have enough depth to create any real interest. And the romance subplot was completely unconvincing.
However, to damn with faint praise, the story wasn’t really that bad. Though I feel it was poorly executed there was a lot of potential. With a less contorted plot, more developed characters and a greater sense of place this could have been an outstanding work rather than an average one.
Simply due to that potential I would consider another of Goodman’s works but I’ll not be rushing out for one.-Lynn

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