O GENTLE DEATH by Janet Neel
St. Martin's Minotaur, August 2001
The teenagers at Faraday Trust, an English boarding school are preparing for their A-Levels, but Catriona Roberts suffers from depression and threatens to send the entire school into chaos. She repeatedly makes minor suicide attempts, clings to several of the boys, and even flirts with school administrators and faculty. Yet, with two of her parents active in the school, the administration has a hard time deciding what to do about her--until she ends up dead.
Author Janet Neel provides a large number of potential suspects. Catriona had been sexually active and was pregnant. Could the baby's father have acted to hide his guilt? Or perhaps one of the school's faculty moved to protect his reputation. Or maybe one of the student's parents simply wanted the distraction out of the way.
The intriguing premise takes far too long to develop, and is presented in such a confusing way, with relatively little characterization to allow the reader to keep the red herrings straight. As a result, O GENTLE DEATH lacks the impact that the premise should allow. And was I the only one who felt that a huge question was left unanswered at the end of the novel?
American readers may enjoy reading Neel's descriptions of English life, and be amused by her characterization of people with titles, children in boarding schools, and executive positions as 'middle class.'
Purchase O GENTLE DEATH from Amazon.com (hardback).
Rather buy it from Barnes and Noble?