Catherine House

Morrow. May 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780062905659. $27.99. SUSPENSE
DEBUT With an abundance of influential graduates, exclusive Catherine House College is well known, but its inner workings remain shrouded in mystery. Not an outstanding student and lacking a stable, supportive family, Ines only applied to the school after being encouraged by her favorite teacher, believing she wouldn’t have been accepted. After arriving on campus, Ines finds herself among a diverse group of students with varying academic and social goals, and everyone seems to have a secret, including Ines. With a constant influx of half-told truths and unclear motivations, the tone of the story is dark and discomforting. Adding to the fearful feeling is the use of a closed-off, baroque-style mansion with secluded nooks perfect for a clandestine rendezvous. As Ines, and most of the other characters, reveal small pieces of their stories very slowly, it’s difficult for readers to engage fully what is happening. A central mystery surrounds the plasma research conducted at Catherine House, but it doesn’t develop much tension, even as portions of inhumane, secret experiments are exposed.
VERDICT Readers looking for a strong atmospheric setting in the gothic style will be drawn in by this psychological thriller. Less satisfying are the interesting if underdeveloped characters. [See Prepub Alert, 10/26/19.]
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