Cornelia Read, author of the critically acclaimed mystery, A Field of Darkness, certainly doesn't suffer with the sophomore jinx with her second novel, The Crazy School. She brings back Madeline Dare, for another intriguing story with outstanding character development.
Maddie and her husband, Dean, finally got out of Syracuse, a city Maddie hated, and moved to the Berkshires in 1989. However, when Dean's job prospects fell through, Maddie accepted a job teaching at the prestigious Santangelo Academy, a school for disturbed, well-to-do teenagers. It isn't long before Maddie realizes that Dr. David Santangelo and his faculty may be more disturbed than the students.
The therapeutic boarding school has unusual methods of handling students in crisis. They pass out meds such as lithium and Thorazine with meals. Sometimes the students must sit in a circle, with the teachers in the middle, while everyone waits for one student to admit their faults. The teachers themselves have self-analysis sessions in which they criticize each other.
Maddie had hoped that the school would help her deal with her own issues. At twenty-six, she's not much older than the students, and she has to face the fact that she's already killed a man. She needs the job, and she's found a friend at the school. Most of all, she doesn't want to abandon the kids. When two students ask for help because one in pregnant, Maddie doesn't know how to help. And, suddenly, Maddie needs help herself when supposed suicides turn to a murder case, and Maddie is tied to the case.
Once again, Cornelia Read has created a deep, thoughtful story with riveting characters. The reader discovers more about Maddie, and gets to know her husband, Dean, a little better. The students, despite their issues with drugs, violence, or depression, are the true stars of the book. Maddie is the focal point that the story pivots around. The students, such as Sitzman and Wiesner, are stronger people, in their own way, than many of the adults in the book. Cornelia Read asks, who are the crazy ones in "The Crazy School"?
Cornelia Read's website is www.corneliaread.com
The Crazy School by Cornelia Read. Grand Central Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-446-58259-9 (hardcover), 328p.
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