I don’t know what rock I was living under back in February 2011 when Carol Goodman‘s Arcadia Falls came out, but somehow i missed it. You see, I’ve been a fan of Goodman ever since The Lake of Dead Languages came out way back in 2002. Goodman’s novels may not always be terribly original, but they fall into a genre I love: Boarding School mysteries. Even when she strays from this tried and true genre, her novels still take place in rather closed, academic settings. The Night Villa (2008), which I loved, takes place on the Isle of Capri among a group of scholars searching for a long lost secret.
Arcadia Falls, unsurprisingly, is set at a private art school in Up State New York. The recently widowed Meg flees there with her daughter in hopes of finding some stability, financial and otherwise, after the unexpected death of her husband. But because this is a novel by Goodman, a death on campus upsets the idyll she is hoping to find. A mystery unravels which places the history of the school at its core.
Overall the writing is solid and the story intriguing. I am a fan, I can’t help but like Goodman’s work. She weaves the history of the school and the heritage of various students into a compelling mystery set in the present.
Who would like this book? I am a sucker for boarding school mysteries and stories set in closed academic communities. If you are too then this book will not disappoint. I would put it along side other books such as The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon and even The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood. Of course standing at the pinnacle of boarding school novels is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. If you haven’t read this, then you must.
And as an aside for fans of YA and fantasy, Goodman has recently published The Demon Lover under the name Juliet Dark. Everything you want out of a boarding school novel, plus a demon lover thrown in. I haven’t read it and probably won’t, but it is sure to appeal to a large audience.