The northeast corner of the United States has always had a penchant for artists’ colonies, for at least the last couple hundred years. One of the most notable was one established by Bronson Alcott (Louise May’s father), which lasted until Mrs. Alcott, tired of putting in yeoman’s hours of cleaning and cooking duty whilst her husband and his friends frolicked in the nude through the meadows, put her foot down at last, and packed them all back to Boston.
Arcadia Falls also features a boarding school/artists’ colony, although one more of a feminist nature, and with far more gauzy robes than nudity. Meg Rosenthal, a recent and recently penniless widow, is headed to Arcadia, along with her teenage daughter, to teach at the school. Although she has no teaching experience, she specialized on in folklore, which interests the administrator, Ivy St. Clare, very much. Her master’s was based on the book The Changeling Girl, which not at all coincidentally, was written and illustrated by the two founders of the school, Lily Eberhardt and Vera Beecher.
The school’s opening ceremony, the First Night Bonfire, starts off, however, with a suspicious death, and it’s only the first. Goodman does a great job with the woodsy somewhat mysterious setting and the twisty plot to keep you guessing until the end. In addition, we learn a definition of the word “clove” which does not appear in the dictionary, and the unavoidable truth that this school seriously needs to invest in some quality fencing.