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The Chatham School Affair

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,172 ratings  ·  250 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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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  2,172 ratings  ·  250 reviews


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Snotchocheez
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

My (late-blooming) love affair with Thomas H. Cook's sumptuous writing continues with 1996's Edgar award-winner, The Chatham School Affair. This is my third encounter with Cook's 30+ novels (The Orchids and The Last Talk With Lola Faye were the others, both great) but the first title that would solidly fit into the genre Cook is best known for: mystery-writing. I'm thrilled to say it does not disappoint. (Well, it certainly didn't disappoint me, anyway. Cook's verbose, sometimes fussily
...more
Sarah Sammis
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Kavita
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Chatham School Affair is an award winning novel, and my first book by Cook. When Elizabeth Channing gets a job in Chatham, she has no idea how her life is about to change. She has come to teach at at the Chatham High School. She befriend the headmaster's son, Henry, who is also the narrator, looking back at events from a distance of some seventy years.

The book is touted as a mystery, but it really doesn't fit the genre. It's more of a tragic romance drama with some mystery thrown in. The au
...more
Christie
Feb 02, 2011 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
...more
Kurt Keefner
Dec 02, 2011 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
...more
Al
Aug 17, 2008 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
J.
Jan 07, 2011 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
...more
Conor
Feb 13, 2013 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
Jeanette
Jul 29, 2013 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
...more
Jeffrey
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Attorney Henry Griswald has a secret. A secret he has kept since 1927 when he was a student at The Chatham School in the small Cape Cod community of Chatham, Massachusetts.

It is a secret that hides the truth behind what would become known as The Chatham School Affair, a scandal that would lead to murder and suicide and leave him forever scarred.

The story begins in the summer of 1926 when beautiful and free-spirited Elizabeth Channing arrives by bus to teach Art at the private school of which Hen
...more
Criminal Element
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are two kinds of readers, as far as I can tell, when it comes to 1997’s Edgar Award-winner, The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook. There are those utterly perplexed by a crime novel that moves at what they deem a glacial pace and bears contents as literary as they are mysterious, and then there are those like myself who raced through the pages, unable to stand the suspense of not knowing what really happened at Black Pond on that fateful day in 1927.

It actually took me a little while
...more
Adrian Fingleton
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well it's difficult to write this and avoid spoilers, but I will try. I like crime novels. This is a crime novel but seems like a lot more besides, with musings about life, love, loss, ambition, adolescence, naivety, family relationships and a lot more besides. Lots of Stephen King like twists and turns, a looming tragedy, and great character drawing. I loved it. And it does not demand too much of the reader. It's tight, concise, and has a great 'sense of place' - something I always look for. Gr ...more
Karen Wenz
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Simply haunting. I've read this three or four times. It's my favorite Thomas H. Cook novel. I have always envisioned it as a film--not so much that it's a visual tale, but more so the hopes and dreams and tragedies etched on landscape of this seaside village, the characters never quite in synch with one another--always longing for something just out of their reach. Sad, but so well told that I keep coming back to it. ...more
Liz
Apr 22, 2009 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! ...more
Deborah Spaulding
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was my first Thomas H. Cook book and I loved it. Wasn't sure about his writing style at first, but I came to love the way he dropped clues, yet twisted them all at the end and completely surprised me.
I will definitely read more of his works.
...more
Ian
Jul 29, 2011 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.
Kelly (smeets_x)
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great book. Briliantly written and it kept you guessing right to the end.
Sara
Jan 24, 2015 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. ...more
Cndy
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG. This is undoubtedly the best mystery I have ever, ever read. Love how the author divulges bits and pieces and pulling you in for the ending.
Solim
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled on Cook after I randomly googled "books with the best twist" to see what I would get. I was getting tired of all authors being predictable, or a little too corny, or not impressionable enough to remember their stories. I came across this random list that this book was on and I decided to get this along with a few other books from that list. I started this and of course judged it based on the cover and automatically did not expect much from the book based on how boring and plain the co ...more
Leila
Aug 11, 2010 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
...more
Becca
Jul 17, 2008 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
...more
Rj
May 27, 2011 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
Julie
Jun 30, 2011 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
Barbara Nutting
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As usual, this story is filled with little innuendos and teasers to keep you glued to the pages. His theme of death, drowning, father issues and remembering are all present in this award winning novel - and again it sounds like an autobiography.

You can’t help but wonder how much of his stories are based on actual happenings. Why does he seem hung up on Hypatia? I learn something new with every book - like where the word tantalize originated! He keeps me constantly turning to Google for clarific
...more
Julie
The twist at the end of this mystery elevates it from a "2 star/it's ok" sort of book to a solid "3/I liked it". I was sure of path the plot was taking, was only wondering about the particulars of the method, when - boom - something totally different happened. That's always a plus in a mystery.

In terms of the setting and the characters, eh, I wasn't too impressed. I wish the setting had been elaborated on. the story felt like it could be set anywhere. As for the narrator, I never felt any sort o
...more
Thomas Mcmillen
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Foreboding - the kind of book that you can't put down even as your gut clenches in angst over the coming denouement. This will not end well - for anyone - yet still you will devour the pages. Cook has written a perfect mood piece. One that will leave you hollowed and still. And yes, this is a POSITIVE review! :-) ...more
Doug Loyd
Sep 10, 2014 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.
...more
Heather Rowe-Stevens
Jul 18, 2011 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. ...more
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Where are all the good mystery books? 3 29 Aug 12, 2014 07:13PM  

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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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