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The Chatham School Affair Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553571931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553571936
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1926 Henry Griswald was a kid, a student of the lovely and unusual Elizabeth Channing, who had recently arrived in his coastal Massachusetts village to teach art at a private school run by his father. Decades later, the people of Henry's village are still racked by guilt and troubled by uncertainty--who, or what, drove Miss Channing to madness and murder? Henry Griswald, narrator of The Chatham School Affair, holds the key. Using the same dark, brooding tone that permeated Breakheart Hill, Thomas Cook has crafted a disturbing yet entertaining psychological thriller. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Like the best of his crime-writing colleagues, Cook (Breakheart Hill) uses the genre to open a window onto the human condition. In this literate, compelling novel, he observes the lives of people doomed to fates beyond their control and imagination. One character here comments: "If you look back on your life and ask, What did I do?, then it means that you didn't do anything." Elizabeth Channing is trying to change the path of her life as, in 1926, she arrives to teach art at a small boys' school located in the Cape Cod village of Chatham. Believing that "life is best lived at the edge of folly," she immediately enthralls the novel's narrator, Henry, the headmaster's son. But Elizabeth is drawn to a fellow teacher, Leland Reed, a freethinker who is unhappily married and has begun to have serious doubts about his life. The inevitable tragedy and its aftermath is narrated by a mature, melancholy Henry looking back at the strange, bleak fates of those involved. Cook is a marvelous stylist, gracing his prose with splendid observations about people and the lush, potentially lethal landscape surrounding them. Events accelerate with increasing force, but few readers will be prepared for the surprise that awaits at novel's end. Literary boundaries mean little to Cook; crime fiction is much the better for that.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

THOMAS H. COOK was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, in 1947. He has been nominated for the Edgar Award seven times in five different categories. He received the best novel Edgar for The Chatham School Affair, the Martin Beck Award, the Herodotus Prize for best historical short story, and the Barry for best novel for Red Leaves, and has been nominated for numerous other awards.

Customer Reviews

The book will haunt me, I'm sure.
Deborah Collins
Besides a good flow to the story, the characters are very well developed.
Charles Schelin
This sensitively written book is one of Thomas Cook's finest.
Eileen S. Ruth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on July 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the summer of 1926, Miss Elizabeth Channing steps off the bus in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, to teach art at the Chatham Boys School. She will be living in a small cottage outside of town on Black Pond, her only neighbor, a married, literature teacher, Leland Reed. So begins The Chatham School Affair, narrated by the headmaster's son, Henry Griswald. Henry takes the reader back to that year, in a spellbinding, moving story of the events that led, to what the townspeople will always call, the Chatham School affair. This is not just a suspense thriller or mystery novel, but a sensitive, compelling story of how the power of the spoken word, once said, can never be taken back or undone and can change, forever the course of many lives. With his eloquent writing and subtle plot twists, Mr. Cook keeps the reader off balance, always guessing and never quite sure, all the way to the climactic ending. His characters come alive on the page and his scenes are so riveting and vivid, they are sometimes painful to read. A stunning story of love, loss and betrayal. Thomas Cook deserved all the awards The Chatham School Affair won.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Joseph L Burke on August 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One cannot be prepared for one's first Thomas H Cook book. It is a unique, disturbing, and edifying experience. Told in the first person by "Henry," who looks back on tragic events of long ago, the story moves slowly, agonizingly, with gathering shadows and dark portents. There are certain stories - books and movies - that seem to define the reader/viewer. I have, for instance, asked many people what the movie "Midnight Cowboy" was about and I have never had anywhere near the same definition twice. This book is like that. It plumbs the minds, spirits, and emotions of its characters, evokes tingling suspense, and fulfills its haunting promise with an ending that you will never forget. Not for "action" readers, but so very very rewarding for those of us who look for excellent writing, plotting, and "something different." It will leave and indelible mark in your reading-mind.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William G Orr on April 14, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book several months ago and with Mr. Cook's latest PLACES IN THE DARK set to come out in May '00, I've picked up a couple more. My review is that this is a wonderful story. I grew up partly in a small town in Southwestern Oklahoma and most if not all of the images and characters Mr. Cook created in CHATHAM SCHOOL AFFAIR is so familiar to me. The story itself is melancholy, wistful. With each page I turn, I know I'm drawing closer to a sad ending but I can't help hoping that it's going to come out differently. I just finished his book BREAKHEART HILL as well and his books are completely different from the usual cliched detective novels that glut the mystery racks. Every time I finish one of his books, each one makes me feel as if I don't treat my fellow human beings as well as they should be treated. Mr. Cook takes me to a place I'd like to call home in each of the books I've read so far. He's spoiled me and I wish more writers would write the same type tales he spins.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Kimball on July 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me start off with a warning: even though this book is very good, and well deserves its Edgar, perhaps reading it will not be the best thing for you.
For one thing, its narrative structure requires some attention from the reader. The action on which the narrator reflects takes place in the 1920's. The point of view shifts between the present and a moving index in the past, an index which inexorably creeps up on the disaster. Meanwhile we are given misleading hints and scraps of information about what will happen. Actually, the narrative is not so much like seeing one thing, then another. It is like watching a dithered image come up on your computer screen: first you get rough outlines, then the details are filled in, until finally all the pixels are filled in. But the last pixels are the important ones, in this case.
Most intelligent readers can handle that kind of variation from normal style, but some can't, and if you can't you should read something else. But that's not the main danger. Once the details are all filled in - on the last page - and you get a good look at the picture, you will not be happier for it. It will be sort of like one of Dore's engravings for Dante's "Inferno": a very well done picture of something horrible.
I am using the words "horror" and "horrible" in a very deliberate sense. I don't mean in the Stephen King sense of non-human ghouls and monsters. What I am associating with the word "horror" is a sense of inescapable disaster befalling people who don't deserve it, and for no reason that you will find at all compatible with the notion of a "fair universe".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's unfortunate that the synopsis provided on the back cover is somewhat misleading. Despite what it seems like, this is not a detective story, a whodunit type deal. Half way through the book the readers will have figured what the "affair" is all about. But, this book is not about solving a crime and finding the culprit. The so-called "affair" is in fact a simple case of adultery. What important is that this "affair" is more a setup for the readers to examine the mindsets of different characters in the story. Who has done what is not we care about. Instead we are drawn into the mind and personality of the characters. Who is this person? What is she/he thinking? How is she/he feeling about everything and everyone around? And, how has this feeling changed throughout the Chatham School Affair? One of the key characters, who is also the narrator of the story, is Henry. Why, after so many years, has Henry settled back in Chatham, a town he so despised as a boy, a place he so desperately wished to run away from? Is it because of his guilt and shame? Is it because he has changed the way he feels about his father? His town? Or is it because he has changed the way he feels about life? These and many other questions linger on in my head long after I close the book. If the readers try to understand the Chatham School Affair from such an angle, she/he will realize that this book is indeed a very good novel, not about any mysterious death or murder, but, more satisfyingly, the human soul and heart.
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