Book - 2020
People disappear when they most want to be seen. Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess's thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna's thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly-knit group of rule-breakers--Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristoc...rat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own. But when tragedy strikes the group, Jess turns to Lorna. Together, the two seek refuge on a remote Italian island, where Jess tastes the life she's long dreamed of--and uncovers a shocking secret that will challenge everything she's learned.
*Starred Review* Jess Walker was drawn into Dr. Lorna Clay's orbit the first time she cracked open Clay's The Truants, a compelling literary exploration of John Cheever, Zelda Fitzgerald, and their gin-soaked contemporaries. Clay's words sparked something deep inside Jess, pulling her to a university in dreary East Anglia solely to study under the scholar. Academic hero worship is a particular thing, but Jess never expected to form more than a studious acquaintanceship with Clay. She's quickly singled out, however, as one of the professor's favorites, which opens a door into a privileged and mysterious world Jess never could have imagined. With intrigue sparking throughout, Weinberg's immensely compelling debut novel explores the years-long reverberations of a fractured friend group and echoes Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1992), Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004), Richard Russo's Straight Man (1997), and Katie Lowe's The Furies (2019). The mystery at the novel's core befits Agatha Christie, another academic focus of Clay's, and unravels at a nearly perfect pace. Spanning Jess's university years and beyond, this slow burn of a novel explores the headiness of favoritism and the danger in meeting one's heroes. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
DEBUT This first novel opens as main character Jess chooses her college in East Anglia owing to her obsession with literature professor Lorna Gray, who wrote the blockbuster book The Truants, arguing that artists must break societal rules to foster their creativity. During her first term, Jess enrolls in Lorna's seminar about Agatha Christie and is encouraged to explore the meaning behind Christie's mysterious 11-day disappearance. (The Christie angle adds a unique twist but feels a bit contrived.) Jess is equally captivated by her reckless friend Georgie and irresistibly drawn toward Georgie's dangerous boyfriend Alec, despite her involvement with the nice but unexciting Nick. Will Jess follow Lorna's advice and risk everything to follow her heart? And are any of the people Jess admires really what they seem? VERDICT Though the outlines of the story are familiar, Jess is eminently sympathetic and likable, and Weinberg skillfully depicts the headiness of the transition to college life. The ending feels needlessly protracted, however, as Jess spends several years during and after college (and following what should be the climax of the novel) attempting to solve the mystery of what happened her first year. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2019 Library Journal.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Jessica Walker, the 19-year-old narrator of British author Weinberg's promising but uneven debut, enrolls at a university in East Anglia to study under prize-winning writer Lorna Clay, best known for The Truants, a book that argues debauchery is fundamental to artistic brilliance. Lorna's current focus is the "rescue" of Agatha Christie and other female authors who have been "dismissed from the canon as irrelevant." The semester starts strong, with Jess impressing Lorna and finding friends who also subscribe to the charismatic professor's hedonistic philosophies. Jess, fellow English major Georgie, South African journalist and visiting fellow Alec, and second-year geology student Nick are initially inseparable, but then triangles form and jealousies flare. When betrayal finally tears the group apart, Jess turns to Lorna for advice and support; as it happens, though, Lorna has secrets and an agenda of her own. Weinberg writes incisively and evocatively about infatuation, heartbreak, and grief, but what begins as a tense, taut, character-driven slow burn succumbs to coincidence and melodrama. Weinberg aims high, but misses her mark. Agent: Allison Hunter, Janklow & Nesbit (U.K.). (Jan.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.
Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess’ thinking on life, love and Agatha Christie.Review by Publisher Summary 2
One of the New York Times Book Review's Top Ten Best Crime Novels of 2020One of USA Today's Best Books 2020"[A] hypnotic debut. . . .[An] uncommonly clever whodunit."--New York Times Book ReviewPerfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History, The Truants is a seductive, unsettling, and beautifully written debut novel of literary suspense--a thrilling exploration of deceit, first love, and the depths to which obsession can drive us.People disappear when they most want to be seen.Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat gray skies of East Anglia for one reason: to be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr. Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess's thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna's thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly knit group of rule-breakers--Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken, until a tragedy shatters their friendships and love affairs, and reveals a terrible secret. Soon Jess must face the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of JanuaryA USA Today Must-Read Book of WinterAn Observer Book of the Year (UK)A Marie Claire Top 5 Christmas Read (UK)A Times Best New Crime Novel (UK)A Guardian Top 10 Golden Age Detective NovelAn Irish Times Best Debut of 2019An Apple Books Pick for January