Dark Passages: Boarding School Gothic
My newest “Dark Passages” column at the Los Angeles Times looks at the first and most recent books by Carol Goodman, which share an upstate NY, secreted girls’ school setting, though THE LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES takes it in a different, more classical direction than does ARCADIA FALLS. Here’s how the piece opens:
As mystery readers well know, constrained geography ups the likelihood
of murder. From John Dickson Carr’s mastery of the locked room to
Agatha Christie’s penchant for country houses to Louise Penny’s
depiction of nastiness crawling out of the woodwork of one tiny
French-Canadian village, death may be bloodless on the page, but
secrets possess an even bloodier sense of suppressed rage that is
desperate for attention and visibility.
The magical boiling caldron of secrets, unsolved murders and isolation
explains the appeal of Carol Goodman’s best work — ironically, being
her first and most recent novels, twinned in subject matter and
character development. Both “The Lake of Dead Languages,” published in 2002, and this month’s “Arcadia Falls” (Ballantine:
364 pp., $25) share what should be a dream-like setting of boarding
schools situated in towns close enough to the big city of Manhattan but
removed enough to suggest earlier time periods, when adolescents were
not so technology-dependent and believed in the romance of the
heartfelt handwritten diary entry. Both books feature girls on the cusp
of womanhood, running the gamut from innocent precocity to
succubus-like attraction to dangerous thrills. And both draw heavily
from Goodman’s knowledge of literary archetypes, from those rooted in
the classics to more modern, artistic tropes….
Read on for the rest.