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Posts Tagged ‘Christie course’

THE TRUANTS by Kate Weinberg: Book Review

Kate Weinberg’s debut novel, The Truants, is outstanding.  There is no other word for this remarkable novel, which combines the author’s admiration and knowledge of Agatha Christie, her understanding of the havoc dysfunctional families can wreak, and her knowledge that a charismatic person may have on the lives of everyone he or she touches, for good or for bad.

Jess Walker is in her first year at university.  She’s the middle child in a family of five children and has always felt the odd one out, anxious to leave what she viewed as her rather cold, uncaring home.  She has been set to go to Oxford, but when she receives a Christmas present given by her uncle she changes her mind.  The book, The Truants by Lorna Clay, alters Jess’ path, and she enrolls at Norfolk instead, the school where Clay is a professor of English literature.

Shy and unsure of herself, Jess immediately falls under the sway of another undergraduate, Georgie, a girl who mesmerizes everyone she meets.  The “everyone” includes not only Jess but Professor Clay and Alec, an older student from South Africa.

Lorna Clay’s class is called “Murdered by the Campus.”  The “Murdered” course consists of female authors the professor feels have been unjustly shunned or pigeon-holed by the male establishment, and Agatha Christie is held up as the prime example of this.

Both Jess and Georgie are in this class, and along with two male classmates they form what appears to be a perfect foursome.   Alec is a journalist from South Africa, and he and Georgie immediately become a couple, while Jess becomes involved with Nick.  Jess cannot get Alec out of her thoughts, however, despite her friendship with Georgie and cautions about him from Lorna.  Disregarding the latter and her own feelings about her disloyalty toward Georgie, Jess and Alec embark on a clandestine affair, and the emotional ramifications reach far beyond the two of them.

The Truants is a mystery with deep underlying issues.  What might seem a superficial question related to Dame Christie’s Curtain becomes something that burrows into Jess’s being.  Lorna asks, “Who should we call the criminal?  The person who commits a crime, or the one who tricks another into doing so?”  Is there actually a correct answer to that?

Kate Weinberg has written an incredible first novel, integrating her love of mysteries with philosophical issues that have no easy answers.  How does one balance one’s first close friendship with one’s first love?  Which is more important?  How much weight should we give to a character’s family background/situation in terms of understanding the character’s behavior?  And when does influence become control?  These questions and issues are what make The Truants expand the mystery genre to another level.

You can read more about Kate Weinberg at various sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.