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Conway, Peter - 'Unwillingly to School'
Hardback: 224 pages (Apr. 2007) Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd ISBN: 0709083254

I have never come across Mr Conway before. Apparently he has written over 24 books and is nearly 80 years of age! On the basis of this novel he can construct a good story and tells it well.

On the surface this book is an old fashioned crime novel, introducing middle class characters; doctors, a piano teacher, a professor and a successful business man and their clubs. However just below the surface sexual tension and deviancy change the novel's direction and prevents any complacency on the part of the reader.

I found the storytelling device of a son discovering his late mother's manuscript relating to the death of a headmaster of a private school - written when she was trying to come to terms with her husband's death - worked well. It concerns a short term period in 1944 at Brantwood, a private school for boys based in Chichester, Sussex, when Janet Brice, as she then was, worked as an under matron. The owner, and also headmaster, Edward Blackstone's personality deteriorates as he bullies both boys in the school and his daughter. He is found drowned in the school swimming pool.

Fifty-six years later Janet is reminded of this time by an old pupil and she is persuaded to discuss the events with some of the people who were involved at Brantwood. They include the headmaster's widow, some of the teaching staff (including one whom Janet was very close to), Patricia - Blackstone's daughter - and another old boy. Janet is determined to find out if Blackstone was murdered and if so by whom.

It is a very good read and highly recommended. My only criticism concerns the book's title perhaps the sub title "death of an eccentric" would have been better? However I will seek out and read more of Mr Conway.

Geoff Jones, England
November 2007



last updated 8/11/2007 19:38