The release of a new Carol Goodman novel is always an exciting moment. Fans of Carol Goodman know that while each novel will be different, there will be a consistency in her ability to bring to life a complex cast of characters, a sure-handedness in her sculpting of a unique and haunting setting, and an unparalleled skill in merging these two components into an unforgettable whole.
One of the common settings that Carol Goodman finds herself returning to repeatedly is the boarding school. Each of her novels that use these storied academic units as a background is distinctive, but it is nice that they form a recurring motif throughout her career. Carol Goodman’s latest—The Bones of the Story—once again visits the hallowed halls of an educational facility (this time Briarwood College), but the unique spin within this novel is that the action is set during a commemorative event between semesters, attended by faculty, donors, and alumni.
Twenty-five years ago, a female student experienced a deadly fall from the high cliffs that surround the college. When a celebrated writing professor set out to find her, he also perished because of the harsh weather and unforgiving landscape. The current college administration wants to commemorate this tragedy with an official ceremony, but it is not lost on some that this is also an opportunity to invite back some of the most prestigious alumni the school has produced—thereby increasing the potential donations.
Among those skeptical is the current Dean of Briarwood, Nell Portman, who was once a scholarship student. Nell is aware that many of the students who were around 25 years ago—including herself—have been invited to this commemorative event. They were a tight-nit group who all knew the victims and when a snowstorm strands them on campus again, the secrets of their past begin to ruin the present.
The narrative unfolds with some chapters set in the present and others flashing back to the past. The Bones of the Story becomes a closed-circle mystery, with all the victims—and the killer(s)—stuck at Briarwood with no chance of escape. The deaths begin to unfold in a way that will not only remind readers of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but also in such a fashion to clue readers in the fact that maybe the stories from that long-ago writing class are more significant than first believed.
With Gothic tone and a trendy Dark Academia feel, The Bones of the Story is sure to bring more fans into the Carol Goodman universe. She’s already been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award four times—winning twice—and it’s very possible The Bones of the Story just might find her on that shortlist once again.
Disclaimer: An print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.