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The Drowning Tree Audio CD – August, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages) delivers another captivating literary mystery of secrets old and new. After 15 years, Juno McKay returns to Penrose College, her alma mater, to hear her friend Christine give a lecture on a beautiful stained-glass window designed by the college's founder and featuring, it was assumed, his wife, Eugenie Penrose. But Christine's research has led her to other conclusions, and her lecture raises many carefully groomed eyebrows. Juno wonders if her always controversial friend has gone too far, and later, she's puzzled by Christine's odd questions and behavior, particularly regarding Juno's ex-husband, Neil, confined to a mental institution called Briarwood these last 14 years. Christine departs, leaving many unanswered questions, and days later, Juno discovers her body in the Hudson River near the college. With elegant precision, Goodman envelops readers in Juno's life, as well as in the lives of her daughter, Bea, and Eugenie and her institutionalized, lovelorn sister, Clare. As Juno finds herself plunged into the middle of a murder investigation, she begins to retrace the path of Christine's research, uncovering tangled connections among the prestigious college, the Briarwood mental facility and her own family history. This is an artful thriller, with rich, vivid descriptions of works of art, Hudson River Valley scenery and the knotty inner terrain of its characters' hearts.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Juno McKay is thrilled when her best friend Christine returns to their upstate New York college, Penrose, to give a lecture about the stained-glass window Juno will be restoring. Christine shocks her audience when she theorizes that Augustus Penrose, the college's founder, depicted his sister-in-law, Clare, not his wife, Eugenie, in the window. After the lecture, Juno finds Christine somewhat troubled and worries about her after she boards her train home. A week later, Juno and her 15-year-old daughter, Bea, kayak on the Hudson River to the Penrose estate, Astolat, where they discover a body: Christine. Heartbroken by her friend's death, which appears to be a suicide, Juno tries to find out what could have driven her over the edge. The search leads Juno in unexpected directions, one of which involves her handsome ex-husband, Neil, who has been a patient in the local asylum for 14 years, ever since he tried to drown himself, Juno, and Bea. Goodman is spot-on at developing a creepy, gothic atmosphere and delivering a compelling, tightly plotted mystery. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Sound Library (August 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 079273291X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792732914
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 6.8 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,598,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kay Day on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Some mystery writers just like to throw out the characters and weave them into a plot without frills. But Carol Goodman takes the mystery up a level or two and carves an entertaining but thought-provoking book in the process.

Ms. Goodman likes mythology and classic literature and art. She moves the plot along by using parallels from mythological tales such as Baucis and Philemon, two ancient lovers turned into a tree by Zeus who granted the couple's wish that they may die together and be guardians of Zeus's temple. This sounds heavy-handed, but it isn't. Such myths work well within the storyline.

The author builds her primary mystery around a painting that served as the model for an artsy stained-glass window at Penrose College. The narrator Juno McKay attended Penrose, but didn't graduate because she got pregnant and married her boyfriend Neil. Juno's story opens with a brief dream sequence, then segues into reality as she rushes to hear her best friend Christine give a lecture about the artist and other personalities associated with the painting/window.

There's a lot of action in the book, considering it's what I'd call a literary mystery. Juno's husband Neil is mentally ill, and has been in a long-term care facility since he tried to drown Juno and their daughter Beatrice years ago. Juno has several romantic interests, and the reader wonders who will triumph in the end, although one of the men's names is a dead giveaway.

Penrose college is one of those tony schools up North with hefty tuition and lofty expectations as well as a delicious scandal that unfolds. Several mysteries run concurrently, but are neatly wrapped up in the end.

Ms. Goodman manages to take on a bit of literary and artistic theory without boring the reader.
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Format: Paperback
I am so glad to have discovered this author! She's created a multi-faceted, intriguing story which, although not entirely plausible, is a witty and smart read, perfect for the summer. The plot weaves together art history, unrequited love and relationships, mythology, a generations-old mystery, and a modern-day murder, using as a backdrop the Hudson Valley and incorporating everything from Dante and stained glass technique to kayaking.

These seemingly disparate elements come together seamlessly, and I was repeatedly struck while reading this book how knowledgeable the author is. Her grasp of languages, history, and psychology are impressive, and I have to admit, I felt a bit smarter after reading this book.

Which is not to say that it is perfect. There are small holes in the storyline, but they're not obvious, and they don't take away from the intriguing and engaging tone of the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. The ending was a bit too contrived, however the author could have taken the plot twists in several different directions, and she chose an interesting resolution to the problems the protagonist faces.

Ultimately I gave this book 5 stars because I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. If you like thrillers, particularly those written by someone who's at least as smart as you are (if not more), you can hardly do better.
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Format: Paperback
I have become a fan of Carol Goodman's after reading "The Lake of Dead Languages" and "The Seduction of Water." Her work has always defied genre classification: part thriller, part mystery, part romance, all done in lush, lovely prose.

I expected the same from her in this one, and at first, she delivered. The plot is pure Carol Goodman, with a thirtysomething heroine, unfulfilled in her romantic and artistic lives, confronting a trauma from her past while trying to unspool a mystery. Her writing is exquisite, all done in dreamlike, present tense narrative, and the backdrop of the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts Movements is done as well as Latin and folklore were done in her previous two novels.

However, Goodman's tale falls apart hopelessly in the last chapter or two. The strong appeal of her stories for me has always been the central mystery, at the heart of which has always been a deep, dark secret, the best sort of Gothic twist, and at first, Goodman seems to be taking us down that path in her best tradition: a scandal from the past, madness, and love gone wrong. However, she suddenly makes a turn toward the end leading us to an utterly pedestrian demouement that seems more fitting to the workman-like prose of Lisa Gardner than to Goodman. It's incogruous, her lovely writing with this hackneyed, silly resolution, and the red herrings she planted along the way are left unresolved or hastily and incompletely explained.

I read Carol Goodman because she usually rises above this. Not this time. Disappointing.
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Format: Paperback
Carol Goodman is a talented writer of what is commonly known as literary thrillers, a genre that precariously straddles serious literature and throwaway thrillers. Her highly literate style of writing, interest in Greek mythology and art, and her preferred choice of setting for her stories - often girls' schools and institutes of learning - lend a certain aura of female respectability to her mysteries. Those who have read and enjoyed "The Lake Of Dead Languages" will find "The Drowning Tree" equally entertaining if not as satisfying.

Goodman takes her time telling her story of love, friendship, betrayal, heritage and madness. The plot enfolds amidst much evocative delving into the past where deadly secrets are buried in recently discovered sketches, letters, deliberately misassembled stained glass paintings, submerged treasures in out-of-bounds estate grounds, etc. All this paves the way for a denouement that isn't as much predictable as artificial, as if Goodman is trying her damnest to avoid the obvious once readers have cottoned onto the truth very early on about what really happened more than a hundred years ago. For this reason, I found the ending somewhat anti-climactic, like a last minute diversion into some minor lane. It is ultimately the consistently high quality of writing that rescues the "The Drowning Tree" from being an averagely plotted thriller. Goodman should find new plot direction if she is to avoid repetition and being stuck in a rut.

Four stars for the plot but five stars overall.
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