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The Crazy School
Cornelia Read
Grand Central Publishing 2008
Hardcover, 336 pages

The Crazy School by Cornelia Read is a mystery novel that looks good with an intriguing title and a captivating sepia cover page that beckons the reader into what promises to be an exciting world of darkness and mystery. Despite feeling Read's novel would deliver a little bit more, The Crazy School is a good time killer on the daily commute or a good beach read.

The Crazy School is set in the Santangelo Academy, an expensive and thus exclusive residential school / treatment facility for troubled teens who might otherwise be given up for lost. The Academy implements its founder, Dr. David Santangelo's own brand of fear provoking and intimidation laced therapeutic techniques that successfully produce compliance but also push the boundaries of not only the conventional but what is ethical and legal. Santangelo illustrates that absolute power corrupts absolutely as students and teachers alike are subject to his rules and regimen.

Students are involuntarily sequestered behind the gates of the crazy school and thus bereft or rights and freedoms. One wonders though why the staff appears to participate so willingly until you realize that they too are burdened by their own terrible and disturbing secrets. One of these staff members is Madeline Dare, a history teacher who genuinely cares for her charges. She relaxes the boundary lines between herself and her students and at the same time bucks the system thus making herself not only vulnerable but at risk.

Initially, the plot of this Cornelia Read mystery novel evolves slowly. It floats along and does not appear to follow the form of a standard whodunit until the halfway point when an unanticipated stunner occurs. This is a eureka moment where tragedy equals mystery and the reader has the promise that the excitement can and will begin.

However, in a blast of insanity all crazy hell breaks loose and the reader is subjected to an explosion of murderous events and strange connections which stem from the school's bizarre history.

Although Cornelia Read does a good job of weaving explanations, the main premise, namely the dark secret of the Academy's past stretches the bounds of credibility rather than stir shock and excitement, leaving this reader less than entertained. On the plus side, mystery readers will like the ending.

Technically, The Crazy School is an unpretentious, easy read. More depth and character development would have been welcome, especially filling in the gaps of Madeline's own past.



Do I smell a sequel?