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The Chatham School Affair

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,472 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
On a summer day, a young woman alighted from a bus in the small Cape Cod village of Chatham and took up residence in a cottage on the edge of Black Pond's dark waters. She was embarking on a voyage she could not foresee --- one that would bring catastrophe to her, to those she loved, and to the town of Chatham itself. Now, seven decades later, only one living soul knows th ...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Bantam (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

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Sarah Sammis
Jul 16, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: released
Henry Griswald narrates the events that make up The Chatham School Affair, beginning with the arrival of Miss Elizabeth Channing, hired as a favor to a family friend to be the new art teacher at the all boys' school. The way Henry's tale unfolds reminds me of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca or perhaps My Cousin Rachel.

Something horrible happened that intimately involved young Henry, Miss Channing and lead to her death and the closure of the school. Over the course of the book through flashbacks, cou
Feb 02, 2011 Christie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books
I read my first Thomas H. Cook novel last year when I discovered, by accident, Breakheart Hill. I really liked that book; I liked The Chatham School Affair even more.

I am not a mystery connoisseur by any stretch, although I admit that I’ve read a fair amount of suspense thrillers in my day. Cook belongs in another category altogether - sort of in the same way that King belongs in his own special category (and I mean that as a compliment because at the top of his game, there’s no one better than
Apr 27, 2015 J. rated it it was ok
One from the "dark secret shrouded in the mists of time" department. As a reader, I like framing devices as much as anybody, but they need to have some kind of rules; a modern story can't continually roam around in clouds of fear and suspicion like The Castle Of Otranto or The Mysteries Of Udolfo. It can be done in our day, but just not as the barrage of verbiage it was in yesteryear.

The author takes his time (and ours) building the world of this novel, framed within multiple removes and perspe
Mar 16, 2013 Conor rated it it was amazing
On the cover, this is described as a "novel of suspense." I didn't know what that was before reading this -- and I am still not sure I do know what it means generally -- but if this is an example of it, give me more. Thomas Cook weaves together an incredible tale about a small town out on Cape Cod. The book starts in the present many years after a horrendous incident and slowly returns to memories of the year of the incident. Cook does a great job of dribbling out details here and there. You are ...more
Kurt Keefner
Dec 02, 2011 Kurt Keefner rated it it was ok
First of all, this book was mistitled. It should have been called The Chatham School Tease, because the author teases the reader every few pages with his ham-handed foreshadowing. How about a little foreshadowing at the beginning and then just telling your story, hmm? Instead Cook spends way too much time with his mopey old narrator who as a young boy had some part in the Affair. I'll tell you about that again in a few pages.

Secondly, all of the characters are undermotivated. It is not credible
Apr 22, 2009 Liz rated it it was ok
This book was recommended by the author of "The House at Riverton". The Riverton book is a much better read. The Chatham School Affair is harder to read, with heavy foreshadowing where the The House at Riverton had a lighter touch and smoother narrative. Interesting to read of events in our region, but might not have finished it if not stuck on a plane with only this to read!
Mar 22, 2011 Leila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I was vacationing in Cape Cod, in a town that was a bike's ride into Chatham. A local used book seller highly recommended it. I couldn't figure out what the appeal was until the last 5 pages.

Though well written, the plot moves along slowly and I am surprised that I didn't abandon the novel at the beginning. But it does build... The story is essentially about the teen son of the Chatham School headmaster, who ends up caught in the middle (privy to many secrets) of an a
Jul 17, 2008 Becca rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: mystery lovers
This mystery wasn't bad, but honestly I was expecting more from an Edgar winner. I think it was trying for some kind of stylised romanticism, and it mostly succeeded but sometimes just came off as old-fashioned and melodramatic. There was too much build up before we finally find out what "crime" happened, so that it is a bit anti-climactic when what happened it revealed. The whole book kind of plays with ideas of practicality vs. romance and reality vs. fantasy. Since everything is told from the ...more
Ellen Brandt
As I was browsing the shelves at the Bar Harbor library, I overheard a conversation in which one older patron was telling another that The Chatham School Affair by Thomas Cook was one of her all time favorite reads. I'd never heard of the book or the author, but decided to give it a try.
In some ways, the book reminds me of Water for Elephants; a very old man recalls events of a tumultuous year of his youth which very much shaped the person he was to become.
The narrative goes back and forth betw
Jul 04, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok
Perhaps I am too new to the mystery genre, but I always expect more of a Sherlock Holmes style or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo rendering where the excitement of the mystery is uncovering the clues and piecing them together to find the culprit, or perhaps that is my analytically trained mind that wishes for it. Either way, I found Cook's style of reminiscing and only providing a glimpse of a detail here and there quite maddening. Although I suppose in a way, this also leads you through th ...more
May 27, 2011 Rj rated it really liked it
Being from Chatham, I am a bit biased. In all fairness this must be stated up front. I was hoping for more Chatham geographical and historical references but it was not necessary for the plot. I found this book slow yet strangely appealing. It creeps on you like a vine pulling you deeper and deeper into it's thick ravines. The story seems simple enough, and in ways it truly is, yet the ending provides a gem that catches you off guard and leaves you satisfied that you did the right thing in keepi ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Doug rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was sort of an old-fashioned whodunnit but with lots of plot twists. (Many of the twists are pretty easy to predict but I enjoyed the book a great deal. I can't wait to read another of Mr. Cook's books. (But not one his cookbooks...I heard he isn't a very good cook.)*

*That was a joke. Not a very FUNNY joke, but, a joke, nonetheless.
Aug 17, 2008 Al rated it did not like it
This book won an Edgar? What am I missing? I have a vision of an author trying to make something out of nothing by adopting a creaky writing device of foreshadowing. All it did for me was make me wish he would get on with the story, for goodness sake, so I could finally finish the foolish thing and start something more interesting. Maybe the Edgar committee was sorry for Mr. Cook because he had come up short in previous years, and threw him this bone. Or maybe the Edgar isn't that reliable as a ...more
Jun 11, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An explosive mystery that left me stunned. Cook has only disappointed me once and the rest of his books I've found either totally stunning or quietly amazing. This is a stunner.

We know, early on that something "horrible" happened at Chatham School, a private school for boys in Chatham, MA. It involved two teachers, male (married) and female. It also involved two deaths.

The story is revealed to us, bit by bit, by Henry, the headmaster's son. He is reminded of the story when a client of his (he i
May 31, 2011 Nancy rated it did not like it
The cover of this book characterized it as "A Novel of Suspense." Couldn't prove it my me. I thought this book was a slog and rather indulgent. While the ending had surprises that were not foreshadowed by the many red herrings that Mr. Cook strew about, I thought the conclusion was contrived in a way and rushed. I wound up reading it for his tidbits about Chatham, MA from 85 years ago and got some enjoyment from that, but I'd not recommend this book to others unless they were low on alternatives ...more
Theresa Leone Davidson
Jul 27, 2009 Theresa Leone Davidson rated it really liked it
A well written novel, absorbing, with a very quiet kind of suspense: what happened on the lake in Chatham? All we know from the beginning is that there were deaths on the lake and a woman goes on trial, facing hanging if found guilty. It was good enough that I finished it in three days but there was one important aspect to the ending I did not like. That's why I gave it four stars instead of five.
Mar 12, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Set during the later 1920’s, story of a love affair at a small private New England boys’ school and the fall-out, largely due to the misunderstandings of a romantic teenage boy. Suspenseful and well-written, the novel keeps you turning the pages. Love, betrayal, loyalty, and consequences are the major themes.
Heather Rowe-Stevens
Jul 18, 2011 Heather Rowe-Stevens rated it it was amazing
A first rate mystery novel which will leave you hanging till the very end. It's not really a "who done it" type, but rather the author plays you along about what really happened with a young, very attractive teacher at a boys academy.
Jan 24, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
This book changed how I look at affairs. I went into this book thinking it would be told one way, and I was blown away with the perspectiveness of it. It's great.
Jul 29, 2011 Ian rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written story of an elderly man looking back on the part he played as a young boy in a scandal that rocked a small town in America in the 1920s.
Feb 11, 2015 Mark rated it it was ok
After all the praise about this novel I had seen through the years, I had hopes this would be excellent. Alas, it is just another book uncomfortably wearing the cloak of a mystery novel while secretly wanting to dress up in the fashionable clothes of an acceptable mainstream academic "serious" book.

Narrated in a herky-jerky fashion, going back and forth in time within the same paragraph (which leads to a lot of awkward sentences) the story tries hard to create a look back at a more romantic time
Kelly Smeeton
Aug 12, 2011 Kelly Smeeton rated it it was amazing
A great book. Briliantly written and it kept you guessing right to the end.
Henery's misunderstanding of Mr. Channing in his book -"Life is best lived at the edge of folly."
Miss Channing as she encouraged Henry in his art endeavers - "Art is like love, it's all or nothing."

Busy bodies, half truths and misunderstandings certainly have a far reaching effect on lives. Events at Chatham School just grew like a snowball carrying the innocent and not so innocent down to destruction and the self righteous thinking that they have properly solved the problem while only making th
Apr 06, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Chatham is a school for boys on Cape Cod and the scene in 1927 of an affair between two of the teachers and sparked by Elizabeth Channing, newly arrived art teacher. The story is told through a third party, Harry Griswald, son of the headmaster.
The affair is conducted quietly and is very slow to be recognized as such by the teachers and the family of Leland Reed, Elizabeth's companion. The odd part of the story is how many times and how deeply the two teachers include Harry in their outings an
This was so like "Breakheart Hill", which I loved, that I truly felt disappointed. That is, the structure, the characters, even the denouement, had a recycled feel. I don't know which came first, B.H. or Chatham School; but it felt to me as though Cook, knowing he had had a winner, recycled the same formula. There is the magnetic female; the tortured narrator, obviously haunted by something he did in the past; the small town setting, where the narrator/protagonist has remained all his life, afte ...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Chatham School Affair, by Thomas H. Cook, b-plus, narrated by George Guidall, produced by Recorded Books, downloaded from

A new teacher is hired to teach art at the Chatham School for Boys, a private school in the small town of Chatham, Massachusetts. She is unmarried and very much alone. She is also beautiful. The headmaster’s son is the protagonist in this novel. He was the main witness to a love that developed between the new teacher and another Chatham school teacher, who was
Bill Hall
May 14, 2013 Bill Hall rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Is this book a 4 or a 5 Star? The story is a captivating read told through the eyes of the son of a private school headmaster. As with other Thomas H. Cook novels (at least Evidence of Blood), The story jumps between current and past time periods. While that might be disconcerting in some other authors' books, the time shift seems integral to Cook's story telling. He also prepares the time shift so that the reader is never confused.

I found Thomas H. Cook to be a masterful story teller in the two
Jan 12, 2014 Solim rated it it was amazing
I dont know how I havent heard of this author up until now. I literally googled "books with the best twist" and found a random list on Amazon with authors I never heard of. Thomas Cook is one hell of a writer and to be honest, I could read about him explaining how grass grows and it would be interesting. This story is told through flashbacks and Cook manages to give you a little bit more detail every chapter to keep you reading. This is one of the books where I was constantly saying "just one mo ...more
The Chatham School Affair is a psychological suspense novel with the narrator looking back at events that took place fifty or so years previously, when he was a teenager. It is set on Cape Cod. If I had not been reading it as part of my Edgar Best Novels Project, I probably would not have finished it. Not that it was not well written, for it was. But since the story is told in the first person, it is the narrator who is the most fully realized character, and I found him self-centered and impossi ...more
Aug 16, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Here is a book that could be used for a Psychology class read. I would have given it 5 stars if it had not plodded a bit much in some of its pace within the telling- just after midline it bogged a bit. Became a little redundant in description at the least.

But perhaps that is what was needed to suggest the school year's time in which these events occurred. And the changes in these characters!

And the slow and gradual switch of loyalty and emotional attachments too- not just for the two protagonis
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Where are all the good mystery books? 3 24 Aug 12, 2014 07:13PM  
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There is more than one author with this name on Goodreads.

Thomas H. Cook has been praised by critics for his attention to psychology and the lyrical nature of his prose. He is the author of more than 30 critically-acclaimed fiction books, including works of true crime. Cook published his first novel, Blood Innocents, in 1980. Cook published steadily through the 1980s, penning such works as the Fra
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