|The Sea of Lost Girls / Carol Goodman|
NY: William Morrow, c2020
This is a classic Carol Goodman story. Set in an elite boarding school with shady beginnings, it follows the drama of a murder investigation that starts in the opening pages of the book and puts the main character's son and husband under suspicion.
Academia and inappropriate teacher-student relationships play a huge role in the life story of our main character, Tess, who was a scholarship student at the Haywood School and is now a teacher there. Her 17 year old son Rudy is a troubled boy, and his actions make him a suspect in the death of his close friend Lila Zeller. But as Tess and Rudy's past comes to light, there is more lurking in her inner circle than she anticipated.
Like most of Goodman's books, this one moves from the present to the history of the school and all the wrongdoings of its founders that were hidden for decades. People who are thought to be upright are proven to have dark secrets; those that are denigrated in the beginning have stronger characters than were guessed at. Lots of academic intrigue alongside unreliable personal relationships and a main character with a troubled backstory = classic Goodman.
I found this novel was much more akin to her earlier works than the last two I read; there is a return to the boarding school setting (so ripe for intrigue) and to secrets of the past. I enjoyed this one, even if it was slightly predictable. The inclusion of a legend of girls who have disappeared from the school and been turned into standing stones in the sea was rich and gave a folkloric richness to the story, something found in some of her earlier works with a thematic thread of fairy tales or legends. A student performance of The Crucible given shortly after Lila's death is chilling and brings in power dynamics and past lessons, as well.
This combination usually works very well for me. I liked it here, but didn't quite love it as much as some earlier titles by Goodman. Still worth picking this one up if you like domestic suspense with a thread of academia and the gothic.