Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Book Review: The Truants by Kate Weinberg.

Product details:
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: January 28th 2020.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Seductive, unsettling, and beautifully written, The Truants is a debut novel of literary suspense perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History--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 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 aristocrat; 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.

Themes of love, lust, betrayal and grief populate Kate Weinberg’s accomplished debut, The Truants, an absorbing coming-of-age tale wrapped in a mystery that is as subtly sinister as it is entirely compelling. 

Jess Walker is finally free. Free from her boring small-town existence. Free from her domineering mother and hum-drum home life. Free to expand her horizons, broaden her mind and all that jazz. When that first taste of freedom lands on her lips like a long-awaited kiss, it takes her breath away. Jess feels like the world is her oyster: she can do anything, be anyone: Jess feels like life has finally begun. 

That’s thanks in part to the troupe of friends Jess meets in her first term at university - a hedonistic trio comprising pill-popping Georgia, journalist Alec, and nice-guy Nick – but even more so it’s down to one Dr. Lorna Clay: Agatha Christie scholar, celebrated author of The Truants – a book that captivates Jess like no other - and the number one reason Jess has chosen to enrol as a student at the University of East Anglia.

Of course, it’s not unusual that an eager undergraduate such as Jess should become intellectually enamoured of her professor. What is unusual, though, is that Lorna Clay, presented to us as brilliant, worldly, and glamourous through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Jess, invites, even encourages such behaviour in her students: she plays favourites, shares confidences, and is privy to details of the various romantic entanglements of her students. It’s no surprise then, that when Jess’s love life takes a turn for the complicated, and her friendship group is ripped apart by a betrayal that is quickly followed by a tragedy, it’s Lorna Clay that Jess turns to for advice. After all, her brilliant professor only has Jess’s best interests at heart, right?

Clever and nuanced, The Truants is something of a slow-burn mystery, one that is filled with subtle twists and hidden depths. It’s a tale that demands patience of its reader, a story that is sometimes frivolously distracted; one that sometimes meanders from its intended path – at least seemingly so. Don’t be fooled. In The Truants, the devil is in the details, all is not what it first seems, and in the end, like all the best university professors, it commands your full attention, leaving you inspired, impressed, and hungry for more.

In Short: A compelling coming-of-age tale wrapped in a clever mystery, The Truants will keep you guessing right to the end - and beyond. Top Tip: Pay attention to the little things!

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