Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

Position:Book review

*** 1/2 Special Topics in Calamity Physics By Marisha Pessl

A campus murder mystery.

The itinerant Blue van Meer and her widowed academic father spend no more than a semester at any university. During her senior year, they settle down at a small elite school in Stockton, North Carolina. Precocious and more than willing to show off her range of knowledge, Blue soon falls under the spell of a coterie of intellectual eccentrics, the Bluebloods, led by the charismatic teacher Hannah Schneider. When the group crashes a party at Hannah's house, they witness a drowning--and another shocking death. Determined to find out more about her teacher and the Bluebloods, Blue uses her wit and intellect to uncover the truth.

Viking. 528 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 067003777X

San Diego Union-Tribune **** 1/2

"Imagine a satiric tour de force culminating in serial nightmare, narrated by the super-articulate teenager who is living it--and who must survive it intact.... The entire central episode concerning Blue, Hannah and her five pets is itself almost a little novel, and in less ambitious hands, might have been sufficient unto itself." JAMES LEIGH

Christian Science Monitor ****

"Whatever you do, don't skip the [finale], which synthesizes questions raised throughout the novel. On a second read-through, the first chapter proves that, beneath the verbal flamboyance, Pessl's plotting was meticulous from the start." YVONNE ZIPP

Los Angeles Times ****

"The book's real brilliance doesn't become clear until the very end.... There are many wonderful young writers out there, but it's always refreshing to find another with such confidence, who takes such joy in the magical tricks words can perform." HILLARY FREY

New York Times ****

"Whether [Pessl] is reinventing, satirizing or dissecting the conventions of prep lit, she has confined herself to a small canvas and a wearyingly familiar world. Or so it seems.... In the guise of asking questions, Ms. Pessl resoundingly answers a big one: yes, she knew precisely what she was doing all along." JANET MASLIN

Boston Globe *** 1/2

"Part mystery, part suspense, and part psychological drama, this is, at its heart, a book...

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