It’s 2018. Bodie Kane is 40, a film scholar, adjunct film professor at UCLA, and the co-host of a successful podcast on women in film titled Starlet Fever, when the Granby School, her New Hampshire prep school, invites her to teach two two-week classes in January—one on podcasting and the other on film studies. Leaving her two children with her soon-to-be ex-husband, she flies east from Los Angeles and returns to a place where she was once unhappy, conflicted, and an outcast.
Being on campus on these dark winter days dredges up the horrific memories of the murder on March 3, 1995 of student Thalia Keith in their senior year. Hours after the school production of “Camelot,” Thalia was found floating in the pool with severe head injuries inconsistent with drowning. Bodie roomed with Thalia as a junior but was never close friends with the popular girl. Thalia’s murder was blamed on 25-year-old Black athletic trainer Omar Evans, but Bodie is convinced the wrong man is in prison, serving a life term for something he didn’t do. When one of the students in her seminar decides to do a podcast on Thalia’s murder, Bodie is intrigued and assists in the background. What they discover is chilling, but too much of it is circumstantial. Still, is the real murderer walking free all these years later?
The form of the book is clever. It is written in the first person from Bodie’s point of view but penned as a kind of letter to the man Bodie suspects to be the real murderer, whom she addresses throughout the novel as “you.” That person is Denny Bloch, a favorite music teacher and the drama coach, whom Bodie believes was having an affair with Thalia—an affair that went drastically wrong and had the power to upend Bloch’s marriage and career. Is Bodie right? What kind of nefarious coverup is still going on years later? Who else is being protected? And what does Bodie know about that tragic spring that she may not have told anyone else?
In addition to being a complex murder mystery that simmers with tension, this is a coming-of-age story as Bodie and her Granby classmates as adults recall those formative years. This is a story about memory—the good ones that make us happy and the dark ones we have relegated to a deep part of the past. It’s also a story about the abuse so many women suffer at the hands of men who supposedly love them, making this a inspired entry in the literary #MeToo genre.
This novel excels on so many levels: an extraordinary multilayered plot, believable characters that pop off the page, and masterful writing.
Best of all, it’s a page-turner, as any good murder mystery should be.