Friday, June 30, 2000
Carlisle as scene of the crime
Carlisle is the setting for a new mystery novel and the town is all there, complete with a sandwich from Daisy's and a great deal of skiing in an abundantly snowy state park. Coup de Grace, by J.S. Borthwick, published by St. Martin's Minotaur, is the name of the book and it is available in bookstores now. The Gleason Library has it on order, so you can look for it there in August.
The story features a rather sizeable addition to Carlisle as we know it, Miss Merritt's School, which (fictionally) borders the site of the Congregational Church. Merritt's has a campus to rival Middlesex and a faculty with tensions and linkages to rival any real school anywhere. Onto this campus come newly minted Ph.D. Sarah Deane, who is grateful for an academic position to tide her over until fall, and her Irish wolfhound Patsy. Deane is thrust almost immediately into an academic vendetta between an authoritarian and frightening French teacher, Madame Carpentier, and those, both faculty and students, who have reason to hate and fear "Madame Coutou," as she is known (Madame the Knife). There are poison pen notes, effigies, and eventually, after 97 pages, a body, which is dressed in Madame Carpentier's signature black cape. After this, things pick up: Carlisle's capable constabulary enters the scene; Deane's husband comes down from Maine for the weekends and various seniors try to unravel the situation. Tension builds with the search for the killer. The final exciting, frightening moments of that search occur on the ski trails of Great Brook State Park.
The familiar landmarks make this an enjoyable read. Anyone familiar with girls' schools or academia will be in familiar territory also. The plot is credible and there are no tricks. Borthwick has a wry humor and a deft touch with the interpersonal situation and dialogue.
This is Borthwick's ninth book. Her pen name is actually an old family name; in reality she is Jean Scott Creighton, who lives in Maine and visits a daughter in Carlisle. She taught English literature at "assorted colleges" before moving to Maine twenty-three years ago. In addition to writing, she spends time in volunteer teaching, town planning, playing in an amateur music group and keeping up with her eight grandchildren and a collection of cats, dogs and horses.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito