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Bonnie Traymore
Head Case
Never make a major life decision in the wake of emotional turmoil. Cassie Romano learned this the hard way, leaving sunny San Diego for a teaching position at a private school in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, after a painful break-up left her heart-broken and in need of a change. It all seemed so perfect in June when she came to interview. But now it’s December, and she’s stranded on top of a mountain surrounded by snow, ice, and acres of wilderness, lonelier than ever and bored out of her mind. When a fellow teacher turns up dead and Cassie receives a cryptic letter from her a few days later, it’s clear to Cassie that something strange is going on at Falcon Ridge Academy. Everyone seems to be writing the death off as a tragic accident, but Cassie’s not so sure. Cassie has secrets of her own, though, so she’s initially reluctant to get involved. Torn between the urge to protect herself and the desire to investigate further, she decides on the latter. And the consequences could be deadly.
Kirkus Reviews

In Traymore’s thriller, a teacher’s first semester at a new school is upended by a possible case of homicide.

Thirty-year-old Cassie Romano, following the sudden end to her long-term relationship, forgoes California’s sunshine for New York’s blusteringly cold winters. She takes a job in the English department at Falcon Ridge Academy, a relatively isolated boarding school. That December, there’s startling news: Kimi Choy, Cassie’s department chair (and the first faculty member to befriend her), dies in an apparent accident. But if that’s true, then why are police asking questions on campus? As Kimi’s posthumous letter to Cassie implies, something shady has been happening at the academy, and foul play is a definite possibility. Cassie takes a closer look around campus and at certain people, from the much-despised dean of the faculty, Brooke Baxter, to the curious, hunky new English teacher, Dan Moralis. She certainly doesn’t want the authorities nosing around for too long, as they might begin digging into the community members’ pasts and expose the secret Cassie has stowed away. The first half of Traymore’s brisk, well-written novel is a solid mystery—a probable murder rattles Cassie’s quiet life, introducing a few dubious characters into the mix. The story then takes a somewhat disappointing turn, answering a handful of the questions it’s stirred up as a killer is revealed (who intermittently takes the narrative reins). But while the mystery largely vanishes, suspense rises as the intelligent, methodical, and coldblooded killer (“I’m not a monster, and I do feel bad about that teacher, but then she should have minded her own business”) keeps tabs on Cassie, who may have put herself in danger simply by knowing too much. The author skillfully develops the cast throughout, particularly Cassie, whose secret gives an already-great protagonist an exciting new dimension; Cassie’s potential romantic interest, Dan; and the empathetic fellow teacher and father figure, Ed Roberts.

Shrewd characterizations elevate this taut, white-knuckle murder mystery.