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The Crazy School    by Cornelia Read order for
Crazy School
by Cornelia Read
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ex-debutante Madeline Dare (whose previous exploits readers enjoyed in A Field of Darkness) and her husband Dean have made a move from Syracuse to the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, where Madeline has found a job at a boarding school for disturbed teens, run by Dr. David Santangelo. Though Dean had sold two of the automated rail grinders he invented, a San Francisco earthquake ate up the company's budget and delayed the sale. Dean has been unable to find other work. Madeline returns home each evening but is often kept late by overscheduled meetings.

Unfortunately, the staff at the cult-like Santangelo Academy seem just as disturbed as the students - and all have to take group therapy with staff psychologist Sookie. (Teachers are also required to participate in Maoist self criticism sessions.) Aside from her friend Lulu (a fellow teacher with whom she shares illicit coffee and cigarettes and who reminds her that 'Someone has to stand up for joy'), Maddie finds several of the students - in particular Forchetti and Wiesner - more congenial than her fellow teachers, who seem insipid and brainwashed. And she's still struggling with her own feelings about killing someone close to her (in self defense) in A Field of Darkness.

As Maddie grows increasingly concerned about how things are handled at the school, students die (not the first suspicious deaths at Santangelo Academy). Though it's initially believed to be suicide, soon the evidence points to Maddie who is arrested. Luckily her wealthy godfather, Alan Flynn, sends high-priced - and very competent - 'knight errant' attorney Markham D. Stuyvesant to the rescue. He gets Maddie out of jail and, helped by her students, she tracks down the killer, though not before the latter has struck again.

Maddie is a wisecracking investigator in the old style, who says things like 'If nothing else, this place had gotten me well in touch with my inner sixteen-year-old boy. He was pissed.' I enjoy reading about her 60s-flavored exploits and look forward to the next Madeline Dare mystery.

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