Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat gray 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.
... lavishly laced with references to disappearances and vanishings, from the image of Amelia Earhart on the wall of Georgie’s dorm room, to the oft-told tale of Agatha Christie squirreling herself from sight when her husband told her he had fallen for another woman ... positively reverberates with echoes of deceit, both purposeful and self-inflicted ... emulates a nigh-on perfect slow burn, generating a pace that makes room for unexpected tragedies as well as silly student antics, drawing out multiple threads of deceptions and lies and a nearly unending river of narrative twists. As Jess, Georgie, Nick, and Alec immerse themselves in their growing friendships, their star-crossed love affairs, and explosive emotional fallouts, Weinberg reveals that she has more than a few tricks of her own up her authorial sleeve ... is also generously peppered with lively and evocative details ... The primary characters are so acutely drawn that, even those with the most irritating traits become intriguing enough to spend time with, and Weinberg brings otherworldly landscape of East Anglia to beautifully bleak and eerie life ... a stark reminder that storytelling, so often considered a magical form of communication, can just as easily represent a far less positive departure from the truth.
Weinberg herself has an aversion to neat endings, or neatness in general – her plot takes surprising turns, her characters are multifaceted, and their dialogue pings with curious anecdotes and diversions that, unusually, add rather than detract from the whole ... Weinberg makes the mentor-student dynamic her own, mixing it with an engaging plot centred around love, betrayal and murder ... Sex plays a large part in The Truants, and Weinberg writes it well ... marks [Weinberg] out as a natural storyteller – in the vein of Christie herself – who spins a decent yarn with lots of smaller yarns along the way. At times we’re bombarded with information and the plot momentum can be ferocious ... Sometimes this lacks plausibility ... The final few chapters of the book are also too dragged out, with the plot mostly sewn up and the most engaging characters off-stage ... It is to Weinberg’s credit that the above doesn’t take away from the book. Her prose is fluid, at times startling, and her insights into society and human behaviour sharp. She knows the difference between drama and tension, and frequently underplays scenes and back story ... Dialogue is a particular strength in this book, hitting the sweet spot between exposition and naturalism. Chats are interesting, intelligent, fresh, and cover everything from literature to monogamy to politics. This is a debut that may sell itself as a murder mystery but there is much more going on between the covers.
This impressive debut from Kate Weinberg is a collegiate coming-of-age story entangled in a snarl of secretive goings on — some nearly a century old, others a few years past, and a few chillingly present. All of them intertwine to great effect in a cleverly constructed tale of passionate duplicity, mysterious absences, and sudden death ... The horizon is stormy and threatening indeed — though never quite collapses into creaky conventionality — as this mystery finds its stride, revealing a machinery of betrayals, vanishings, abrupt disillusionments, raw unmaskings, and, above all, romantic triangles. Or, more correctly, curiously intersecting triangles hinting strongly at furtive murder unpunished ... Kudos to Kate Weinberg...