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The Chatham School Affair [Paperback]

Thomas H. Cook
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jan 1997
Attorney Henry Griswald has a secret: the truth behind the tragic events the world knew as the Chatham School Affair, the controversial tragedy that destroyed five lives, shattered a quiet community, and forever scarred the young boy. Layer by layer, in The Chatham School Affair, Cook paints a stunning portrait of a woman, a school, and a town in which passionate violence seems impossible...and inevitable. "Thomas Cook's night visions, seen through a lens darkly, are haunting," raved the New York Times Book Review, and The Chatham School Affair will cement this superb writer's position as one of crime fiction's most prodigious talents, a master of the unexpected ending.


From the Paperback edition.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (2 Jan 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552145181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552145183
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,713,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A good thriller doesn't necessarily require flying fists, bombs and bullets; a sure and measured build-up of tension does just as well, and few are better at the fine art of sure and measured than Thomas H. Cook - Guardian



The Go-Between as reworked by Ruth Rendell...like watching an avalanche in agonizing, exquisite slow-motion - Kirkus



Thomas Cook's night visions, seen through a lens darkly, are haunting, and The Chatham School Affair will cement this superb writer's position as one of crime fiction's most prodigious talents, a master of the unexpected ending - New York Times Book Review

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A tautly compelling novel of a notorious crime ¿ and the consequences seventy years later . . . --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological drama 4 Jan 2010
By Jaybird
Format:Paperback
Cook is a really good writer, who describes his books as character driven psychological dramas, where bad things happen, rather than crime novels

This book shares some devices with Masters of the Delta - the relationship between a schoolboy and teacher is central, the story is narrated by an old man looking back on his youth and the teacher in question tells violent stories from history to their pupils.

Set in 1927, it follows the transforming effect that his relationship with a beautiful, unorthodox teacher has on a boy from a staid, constricted background. His father is a headmaster in a small town in Maine. He is seduced by her freedom and liberalism and is swept away with the romanticism of her life, with devastating effect.

It is a slow book, with a wonderful sense of place, which really makes it. The ending was not entirely convincing to me and some of the twists were well signposted.

Even so, it is a pretty good book and recommended. I actually think this would make a great film.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas H. Cook - The Chatham School Affair 12 Aug 2008
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Brilliant, again. Cook's formula and writing style admittedly have an unfortunate effect of making his books all seem quite similar (especially in tone), but that doesn't mean that each one I've read is not a stunning piece of writing, and crime fiction, this one in particular. The Chatham School Affair is a mysterious, gloriously gothic novel, absolutely steeped in atmosphere. If one didn't know better you'd think it was set in the South! Cook moves his stories along brilliantly, with tiny little shifts, grafually piecing his enigmatic puzzles together, always holding back as much as he reveals, always with a final twist. In fact, the twist here is not quite as dramatic as in some of his other novels, but it's still shocking and has huge emotional power. It all whips together to make this novel a stunning story, a piercing tradgedy which may possibly move you to tears, when the implications, for everyone involved, become clear.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No reasons to swoon over it 10 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I may be unduly hard to please but this book left me, if not cold, then not much warmed up. Henry Griswald , now an old man, remembers and tells the story of an affair that shattered the peace and quiet of the little town he lived in as a boy when his headmaster of a father hired a beautiful young woman, Elizabeth Channing, to teach art at his school. The exotic orphaned creature will cast spells both around young Henry and another teacher, Leland Reed, who by rights should have known better as he was married and the father of a little girl. There is not much to interest here as this story of passion, infidelity and supposed murders has been done times and times again and most of the time with greater talent. We are even cheated of the murders as we are tantalized by a tale that never really materializes, in fact there were deaths yes, but no murders (as such). As for young Henry, the boy who feels stifled and yearns for escape, sees a lot but doesn't understand the whole picture... this same plotline of an adult character going back in time has been done so well by Mc Ewan in "Atonement" that it is somewhat painful to see a similar attempt fail so utterly miserably. I was never once convinced ! Too banal by far this story that depends too much on caricatures, the temptress, the wounded-in-the-war teacher, the good man, his inflexible and hard-hearted wife... There is even a convenient death in a prison at the end to bring pathos and probably a few tears to the reader's eye. Mine remained dry and yet it is generally very easy to make me cry.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas H. Cook - The Chatham School Affair 17 Jan 2008
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Brilliant, again. Cook's formula and writing style admittedly have an unfortunate effect of making his books all seem quite similar (especially in tone), but that doesn't mean that each one I've read is not a stunning piece of writing, and crime fiction, this one in particular. The Chatham School Affair is a mysterious, gloriously gothic novel, absolutely steeped in atmosphere. If one didn't know better you'd think it was set in the South! Cook moves his stories along brilliantly, with tiny little shifts, grafually piecing his enigmatic puzzles together, always holding back as much as he reveals, always with a final twist. In fact, the twist here is not quite as dramatic as in some of his other novels, but it's still shocking and has huge emotional power. It all whips together to make this novel a stunning story, a piercing tradgedy which may possibly move you to tears, when the implications, for everyone involved, become clear.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  86 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting, Powerful Story 20 July 2000
By Roz Levine - Published on Amazon.com
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.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best Books I Have Ever Read 21 Aug 2000
By Joseph L Burke - Published on Amazon.com
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.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 14 April 2000
By William G Orr - Published on Amazon.com
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.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bleak masterpiece of psychological horror 9 July 2000
By Peter A. Kimball - Published on Amazon.com
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". It's not enjoyable to look at, and that's why the craft of horror writing often involves sneaking up on the reader and sticking it in his/her face before he/she can get away.
Well, after you have allowed yourself to care for the characters - and there are no villains in the piece - you will, at the end, find out who dies, and how, and who suffers, and how, and why. And it will be a very bleak picture - a picture of great artistic integrity, but without any pleasant highlights whatever. And there is a distinct possibility that you will say to yourself, "Why did I read this? Why did I look upon this picture, which will now depress me for the rest of the day or longer?"
I'm really not kidding about this. However, on balance, I am glad I read this book. It is, in fact, a horror novel about ethics. The disaster which envelops the narrator (then an adolescent boy at his father's private school on Cape Cod), and the teachers he loves, and everyone and everything else he values, is ultimately one of conflicting imperatives. Conform to hidebound convention, or cast it off? Follow your heart, or lock it away? Do your duty, or abandon it? Help your loved ones, or remain aloof? Mercy, or accountability? St. Augustine, I think, made the point that sin is virtue perverted or overdone. Therefore, the mere fact that you are acting on an ethical imperative is no insurance that you won't have blood on your hands. But to know what virtue has been perverted into what catastrophic sin by whom, you have to wait for the last pixel.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars slow start, but strong finish 28 Aug 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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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