Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
The lions sit on either side of the gate to Blackburne School, a boarding school with "fierce traditions" and a fervent belief in its honor code. A code that Matthias has violated. The prologue has Matthias jogging in place in front of the lions, overcome with guilt and trying to justify his actions. The tension from this information already has the reader apprehensive.
Matthias is joined shortly by his best friend Fritz; they argue and in the heat of anger, hurtful words are said on both sides. Fritz eventually turns and runs back toward the school. After a few moments, Matthias runs after him, his guilt escalating as he attempts to apologize. But Fritz is too far ahead and when Matthias gets back to the school, he can't find Fritz. He assumes that Fritz is avoiding him. Fritz isn't in their room; he isn't at dinner; he isn't at study period. Matthias begins to worry and before lights-out, the sheriff is called
Fritz is gone, and a search proves fruitless. There is no body, no trace, no explanation.
Nearly ten years later, Matthias returns to Blackburne to teach English. He had a one-hit wonder novel, but was unable to follow it up. His New York high life has come to an end, and he hopes that a return to Blackburne will give him a chance to start over.
The novel moves back and forth from Matthias' arrival at Blackburne at fourteen and his gradual assimilation into boarding school life, new friends, and rigorous education--to the present and his place as a member of the faculty and his deepening obsession with finding out what happened to Fritz. In the process, he uncovers some other secrets at the school and beyond it.
Suspense, mystery, and coming-of-age intertwine in this debut novel that hooked me from the prologue and kept me on edge thereafter.
read in April; blog post scheduled for July.
Suspense/Coming of Age. August 1, 2017. Print length: 368 pages