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Another bucolic fall in northern New Hampshire, and the semester is under way at Bishop's Hill Academy. But this year the start of school has been less than tranquil. The new headmaster, Jim Hawthorne, has liberal ideas that the staff find far from welcome. He's also determined to do something about the long "tradition" of permanent loans to faculty of shovels, saws, even Another bucolic fall in northern New Hampshire, and the semester is under way at Bishop's Hill Academy. But this year the start of school has been less than tranquil. The new headmaster, Jim Hawthorne, has liberal ideas that the staff find far from welcome. He's also determined to do something about the long "tradition" of permanent loans to faculty of shovels, saws, even cars, from the school's supplies. Eloquent as he is on the subject of honor, rumor has it he's only taken this job to escape his past. And Hawthorne isn't the only uneasy newcomer. There's Jessica, a former stripper at fifteen, and Frank LeBrun, a replacement cook who's a bit too quick with a dirty joke. All three have secrets to conceal, memories to suppress. Serene on the surface, the ivy-clad, tree-lined campus gives few clues to the school's history of special privileges, petty corruptions, and hidden allegiances. But as autumn advances, the affable smiles and pretenses of virtue wear thin. And as winter closes in, students, teachers, and staff get an education in savagery and murder.


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Another bucolic fall in northern New Hampshire, and the semester is under way at Bishop's Hill Academy. But this year the start of school has been less than tranquil. The new headmaster, Jim Hawthorne, has liberal ideas that the staff find far from welcome. He's also determined to do something about the long "tradition" of permanent loans to faculty of shovels, saws, even Another bucolic fall in northern New Hampshire, and the semester is under way at Bishop's Hill Academy. But this year the start of school has been less than tranquil. The new headmaster, Jim Hawthorne, has liberal ideas that the staff find far from welcome. He's also determined to do something about the long "tradition" of permanent loans to faculty of shovels, saws, even cars, from the school's supplies. Eloquent as he is on the subject of honor, rumor has it he's only taken this job to escape his past. And Hawthorne isn't the only uneasy newcomer. There's Jessica, a former stripper at fifteen, and Frank LeBrun, a replacement cook who's a bit too quick with a dirty joke. All three have secrets to conceal, memories to suppress. Serene on the surface, the ivy-clad, tree-lined campus gives few clues to the school's history of special privileges, petty corruptions, and hidden allegiances. But as autumn advances, the affable smiles and pretenses of virtue wear thin. And as winter closes in, students, teachers, and staff get an education in savagery and murder.

30 review for Boy in the Water

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Boy in the Water by Stephen Dobyns is a 2000 St. Martin’s Press publication. Jim Hawthorne accepts the job of headmaster of Bishop’s Hill Academy, a school that is going through some hard times. Hawthorne is overqualified for the job, but he has his reasons for taking the position. However, the staff, faculty, and students are less than pleased with his arrival and he soon finds himself the victim of some ghoulish pranks. But, when a student is found dead, Hawthorne and Bishop’s Hill Academy are Boy in the Water by Stephen Dobyns is a 2000 St. Martin’s Press publication. Jim Hawthorne accepts the job of headmaster of Bishop’s Hill Academy, a school that is going through some hard times. Hawthorne is overqualified for the job, but he has his reasons for taking the position. However, the staff, faculty, and students are less than pleased with his arrival and he soon finds himself the victim of some ghoulish pranks. But, when a student is found dead, Hawthorne and Bishop’s Hill Academy are left hanging by a thread. My first introduction to Stephen Dobyns was with ‘The Church of Dead Girls’. The book was so good, I read it twice. The next book I read was ‘The Burn Place’ which was also very good. So, when I saw this book at the annual ‘Friends of the Library’ sale, a few years back, I snapped it up. But, the book got shoved to the back of my bookshelf and over time I forgot about it, until I recently got into one of my rearranging moods and found it again. Although the book has received some mixed reviews, and I do understand this one doesn’t even come close to TCODG, it does have some atmospheric creepiness and a sinister quality to it that kept me interested, even though the pacing isn't terribly swift. This book is just a tiny bit dated in places, and beware, there are a few words tossed in we wouldn’t dream of using today, but overall there is something about setting the story in an old school where the students all come from troubled backgrounds, that raises the level of suspense. The story pulled me in right away, and I did get caught up in the cat and mouse game being played with Hawthorne, but it started to lose its cohesiveness around the midway mark, and never fully recovered. This author has done much better work, and this one was a little disappointing, but it wasn’t all that bad either. So, it falls into that middle of the road category. I haven’t heard much from this author is a while, but I understand he writes the ‘Charlie Bradshaw’ series, which I have never read, so I may look into those sometime soon. Overall this one gets 3 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Snotchocheez

    2.5 stars I've for quite a long time kept Stephen Dobyns' name filed away as someone to try, after fellow suspense writer (and fellow Stephen) King lauded Dobyns' The Church of Dead Girls in King's Entertainment Weekly article. That title wasn't available at the library but Boy In The Water was. The set-up was really well done. A prologue introduces the titular boy floating dead in a swimming pool, then gives us a glimpse into the lives of a really creepy, joke telling assassin-for-hire, then an 2.5 stars I've for quite a long time kept Stephen Dobyns' name filed away as someone to try, after fellow suspense writer (and fellow Stephen) King lauded Dobyns' The Church of Dead Girls in King's Entertainment Weekly article. That title wasn't available at the library but Boy In The Water was. The set-up was really well done. A prologue introduces the titular boy floating dead in a swimming pool, then gives us a glimpse into the lives of a really creepy, joke telling assassin-for-hire, then an underage stripper, then our protagonist, clinical psychologist Dr. Jim Hawthorne, who's trying to rebuild his life after losing his wife and daughter in a fire in San Diego (that he feels responsible for) and takes a badly underpaid, thankless job as headmaster for a a failing reform/boarding school acoss the country in New Hampshire. We learn that Dr. Hawthorne's got his work cut out for him, with plenty of jealous dissension of the other teachers, a board of trustees that is rumored to be closing the school soon, whilst contending with his own personal demons. I was riveted throughout much of the first half of this, trying to figure out where Dobyns was going with this thing. Creepy lurid thriller? Ghost-y old-school goings-on? A psychological examination into greed and malfeasance? All-of-the-above, most likely, but my attention really started waning at about the midpoint, when it became painfully clear Dobyns had no idea how to end this thing. A book that.was already feeling a little bloated (not unlike the condition of boy's body floating in the svhool's natatorium) really started getting stinky when Dobyns kept having his protagonst Dr. Hawthorne present the same facts over and over again (perhaps to wring every drop from the suspense dishrag). All I know is, what started out an engaging and interesting thriller began boring me with every repetition of Dr. Hawthorne's actions, with every reiteration of a factoid. Oh yeah, and that ending...yikes. Yet, there was enough good stuff here to keep me entertained throughout much of it. The premise was somewhat original, and I was a bit creeped out at times. While I didn't love this, I will definitely try one of Dobyns' (well over a dozen) other titles in the future.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    I almost stopped reading near the beginning of the book because there was an unpleasantly graphic scene at a strip club, followed by a scene where one low class thug kills another low class thug with an icepick. Neither seemed to have any connection to the promised locus, a New Hampshire prep school for troubled youth. But I stuck with it and I'm glad I did, since Dobyns' writing is many notches above your average thriller fare. As with The Church of Dead Girls, he creates a very sympathetic pro I almost stopped reading near the beginning of the book because there was an unpleasantly graphic scene at a strip club, followed by a scene where one low class thug kills another low class thug with an icepick. Neither seemed to have any connection to the promised locus, a New Hampshire prep school for troubled youth. But I stuck with it and I'm glad I did, since Dobyns' writing is many notches above your average thriller fare. As with The Church of Dead Girls, he creates a very sympathetic protagonist. Jim Hawthorne is a psychologist whose wife and daughter were killed in a fire set by a juvenile delinquent he had been trying to help. He comes east to take a job as headmaster of a boarding school for problem kids, partly because he thinks he can help them, partly to punish himself for not being able to save his family. He begins changing the school for the better, but most faculty and staff are resentful of the changes and begin passive-aggressively plotting against him. The school turns out to be a rather sick nest of vipers. At about the one-quarter point, I couldn't put the book down and read through to the end, stopping only to prepare snacks and admire myself in the mirror, as is my wont.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I read The Church of Dead Girls about 20 years ago and I remember liking it. Stephen Dobyns’ name made an indelible impression in my memory. I was exposed to some of his poetry about a year ago and I was incredibly impressed. I deliberately sought more of his work and, sadly, this is what I stumbled upon. It is not the best example of what he is capable of, in my opinion. If not for his rich, descriptive vocabulary, which I fully appreciate, I would have given this book just one star. I thought I read The Church of Dead Girls about 20 years ago and I remember liking it. Stephen Dobyns’ name made an indelible impression in my memory. I was exposed to some of his poetry about a year ago and I was incredibly impressed. I deliberately sought more of his work and, sadly, this is what I stumbled upon. It is not the best example of what he is capable of, in my opinion. If not for his rich, descriptive vocabulary, which I fully appreciate, I would have given this book just one star. I thought it was incredibly boring. I didn’t find it remotely intriguing until I was about 250 pages into it, which isn’t the type of impression a suspense thriller should make. And while we are on the suspense topic, I want to mention that I never felt this book was remotely suspenseful. The outcome was relatively predictable. You know who the antagonists are from the start. Because I am sure that the author has some better work out there, I won’t abandon his books all together, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend this particular one to a friend.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Porter

    Well written, but oddly uninvolving.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annalisa

    I've come to really like this writer. I love his humor, the way he describes things, and his plots. I have not been disappointed yet. I've loved all his books I've read dearly. This was an excellent mystery. It kept me in suspense. It actually had some excellent points on raising children and handling problems too. The characters are amazing. Some I really like and some are so aggravating, but they are supposed to be. The intensity with which the bad guys bothered me is a good sign of the writin I've come to really like this writer. I love his humor, the way he describes things, and his plots. I have not been disappointed yet. I've loved all his books I've read dearly. This was an excellent mystery. It kept me in suspense. It actually had some excellent points on raising children and handling problems too. The characters are amazing. Some I really like and some are so aggravating, but they are supposed to be. The intensity with which the bad guys bothered me is a good sign of the writing. I really enjoy how the mysteries unfold and trying to figure out who was involved. It was so fun.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mics

    It dragged a bit and a few things were spelt out unnecessarily. I really liked the mystery and I'm very proud that I figured it out 3 chapters in. It dragged a bit and a few things were spelt out unnecessarily. I really liked the mystery and I'm very proud that I figured it out 3 chapters in.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Lyons

    Not as satisfying as I'd hoped, though it was still a decent read. Not as satisfying as I'd hoped, though it was still a decent read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? We got some work to do now. Oh wait, you mean this isn’t a new episode about that meddling gang from Mystery, Inc and their dog? Well damn, I must have been absent the day that memo was handed out because what we have here kiddies is a true-blue suspense story that must have leaked out from the cartoon network. Crazy, supernatural pranks – check. Murder mystery that unravels as the characters literally stumble upon clues –check. Players that have absolutely no co Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? We got some work to do now. Oh wait, you mean this isn’t a new episode about that meddling gang from Mystery, Inc and their dog? Well damn, I must have been absent the day that memo was handed out because what we have here kiddies is a true-blue suspense story that must have leaked out from the cartoon network. Crazy, supernatural pranks – check. Murder mystery that unravels as the characters literally stumble upon clues –check. Players that have absolutely no common sense, courage, or emotion – check. Hey Mr. Dobyns, Hanna-Barbera called, they want their storyline back. I don't know if it was the author, editor, or some one in the publicity office that came up with the title, but I was pissed as hell that I waited the whole book for a title that had little to nothing to do with the story to explain itself. The outline of the story is a basic who-done-it, which evolves into a redemption mystery that carries a message and a supernatural touch. As it stood the only mystery that existed was the actual point of the story. The arrangement of the events, the clueless players, and the hair-raising predicaments are amateurish at best. The plot is mosaic and redundant from the first chapter to the last. Had it been trimmed and the plot and sub-plots defined it would have turned out to be a different, but much better book. Also, the end debunks any chance that mystery could be involved, which sealed the deal that this tale is a grown-up version of Saturday morning cartoons. Jinkies! Dobyn’s style of writing is tedious, chaotic, and completely devoid of any structure. Instead of focusing on one, maybe two viewpoints, he has decided to use over ten that rotate from the new headmaster, an underage ex-stripper new to the school, a cook with a past, a complete faculty, a few students, and a homicide detective. How’s that feel, does it hurt? Also, he details everything five times over just in case we didn’t get it in the last chapter or he didn’t point it out loud enough. Had he paid half as much attention to the speed as he did to description, it might have at least been quick. He didn’t, and it wasn’t. Drawn out to the point of exhaustion, the pace taxes both your mind and patience. The events are scarce, and the build-up leading up to them is frenzied. Now if that wasn't annoying enough, let's talk about the characters. One-dimensional, emotionally detached, and about as sincere as a used car salesman, Dobyns introduces a large cast for no other reason than to fill space. Take the main character, the new headmaster, Jim Hawthorne. Early on we learn that he lost his wife and daughter in a fire due to a patient’s attachment issues and then we are reminded of said incident in every chapter that follows. Where was he and what was he doing? He was receiving a Lewinsky in the parking lot compliments of an old student. Enter an assumption of guilt, remorse, and the need to be punished. Let me repeat that, he NEVER shows any emotion. Also, in order to atone for his past indiscretions and his failure as both a husband and father he decides a job at a school that is beneath accreditation is just the ticket. As for the atmosphere, I’m still looking for it. My rating? I give it a 1. Get a clue, avoid this book! -As reviewed for Horror-Web.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Briggs

    If this were a just world, Stephen Dobyns' "The Church of Dead Girls" would enjoy the critical and popular acclaim accorded to "The Silence of the Lambs," while "Lambs" would be a moderately successful potboiler that reaped modest rewards for the moderately talented Thomas Harris. If you like the psychological thrillers, you need to get to "Church." Unfortunately, Dobyns' followup, "Boy in the Water," isn't nearly as accomplished or skillful. We get off to a grand start: a dead boy floating face If this were a just world, Stephen Dobyns' "The Church of Dead Girls" would enjoy the critical and popular acclaim accorded to "The Silence of the Lambs," while "Lambs" would be a moderately successful potboiler that reaped modest rewards for the moderately talented Thomas Harris. If you like the psychological thrillers, you need to get to "Church." Unfortunately, Dobyns' followup, "Boy in the Water," isn't nearly as accomplished or skillful. We get off to a grand start: a dead boy floating facedown in a high school swimming pool, a terrified kitten stranded on his back. Flashback to Jim Hawthorne (Hawthorne, there's a good Gothic name), recovering from a tragic fire that took his family and starting a new job as headmaster of Bishop's Hill Academy in New Hampshire. Gargoyle-festooned Bishop's Hill is a school on "the cutting edge of failure," a dumping ground for kids and teachers trying to serve out the rest of their sentences without learning anything. The students would be in jail if they didn't have rich parents, and the faculty would be unemployed if they didn't have do-nothing posts at the school. Hawthorne has ambitious plans: Mandatory staff meetings! Rap sessions with the kids! He's determined to save 15-year-old Jessica Weaver, who puts the student body in student body by stripping at nudie bars to raise money to kidnap her younger brother from her sneeringly evil stepfather. Hawthorne hopes to coax the school's timid, gay psychiatrist, Clifford Evings, out of his office, so he'll engage with the students instead of reading novels all day under the glowering portrait of 19th-century headmaster Ambrose Stark (another great Gothic name!), "the spirit of the place, as it were." Hawthorne aims to rehabilitate the school and in the process rehabilitate himself, not reckoning that most folks are fine with the status quo. The harassment campaign against him starts off slow, then escalates: vandalism, sacks of rotten food, ghostly sightings of Ambrose Stark, crank phone calls from Hawthorne's dead wife. All leading up to ... MURDER! None of this is even remotely believable. It's more like one of those quirkfest TV shows, say "Twin Peaks" or "The Kingdom." It's not much of a whodunit coz pretty much everyone is guilty. The teachers are all petty, vindictive and malicious. To say nothing of the hyperactive icepick psycho killer who works in the kitchen, telling lousy "Canuck" jokes and baking tacks into the bread. ("He made good bread.") Dobyns continues to add level upon level to his layer cake of ludicrous. And Hawthorne is such a milquetoast, touchy-feely twigboy that it's hard to root for him as a hero, even during his "High Noon" moment when a blizzard hits and knocks out power to Bishop's Hill while a killer is on the loose. Oh, did I mention the spiked fence around the belltower? I think we know where this is goin. All the cover blurbage suggests this is a pulse-pounding thriller, but it's really not. It's much too slow and meandering and atmospheric to take to the beach. It's more of a modern spin on (or perhaps a parody of) the old-fashioned Gothic, complete with moaning winds, howls in the wilderness and eerie apparitions. And as such, it could be effective if read while curled up on the couch on a deathly quiet winter nite after a good snowfall.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chana

    Mystery/thriller set in an isolated boarding school in the New Hampshire forest. The setting lends itself to creepiness and criminal activity, especially with the staff of hostile and homicidal staff that work at the school. Enter Dr. Hawthorne, the new Headmaster, a well-meaning, clueless but ultimately heroic man burdened with guilt and grief after the deaths of his wife and daughter in a fire. The most interesting character is the bad guy, which is not that unusual for this type of book. If I Mystery/thriller set in an isolated boarding school in the New Hampshire forest. The setting lends itself to creepiness and criminal activity, especially with the staff of hostile and homicidal staff that work at the school. Enter Dr. Hawthorne, the new Headmaster, a well-meaning, clueless but ultimately heroic man burdened with guilt and grief after the deaths of his wife and daughter in a fire. The most interesting character is the bad guy, which is not that unusual for this type of book. If I could have chosen where to be in this book I probably would have been sitting in the history class learning about Marcus Aurelius.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Dobyns does a good job of setting up your anxious anticipation and characters that appear simply black and white, but have another dimension, if probed. I had actually read this before but still couldn't remember quite who was involved in what and that there were several "whats" going on. In our mystery discussion group, several people felt that the new headmaster was dense and a poor psychologist, but who expects to be dropped in such a toxic environment? And who could clean it up in 12 weeks, Dobyns does a good job of setting up your anxious anticipation and characters that appear simply black and white, but have another dimension, if probed. I had actually read this before but still couldn't remember quite who was involved in what and that there were several "whats" going on. In our mystery discussion group, several people felt that the new headmaster was dense and a poor psychologist, but who expects to be dropped in such a toxic environment? And who could clean it up in 12 weeks, the length of time covered in the book?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Thriller that takes place at a prep school for troubled children. Too much focus on developing certain characters and not enough on others. Interesting, but was able to figure it out midway through the book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    J.M.

    I didn't like this book and couldn't finish it. I didn't like this book and couldn't finish it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This book opens with a quote from Marcus Aurelius and his beloved stoicism is echoed in the protagonist, James Hawthorne, a man tasked with the unenviable job of rehabilitating a failing school for dysfunctional rich kids. Hawthorne has to deal with a teaching staff grown comfortable to the status quo and are suspicious of his motives for reforming the school. He also has to deal with his own past full of tragic ghosts. And to top it all off, a student has been found floating dead in the pool wi This book opens with a quote from Marcus Aurelius and his beloved stoicism is echoed in the protagonist, James Hawthorne, a man tasked with the unenviable job of rehabilitating a failing school for dysfunctional rich kids. Hawthorne has to deal with a teaching staff grown comfortable to the status quo and are suspicious of his motives for reforming the school. He also has to deal with his own past full of tragic ghosts. And to top it all off, a student has been found floating dead in the pool with a kitten on his back. Dobyns writing really snagged me here as I couldn't really put this one down. This book features an excellent villain, the twitchy bad joke spewing LaBrun a man equally talented at making bread as he is at making holes in people with ice picks. Then there is Jessica, a fifteen year old stripper who is trying to escape out from under her sexually abusive stepfather while rescuing her brother Jason. Some of the other characters are a little meh and more murky, but basically the principle cast are all solid, except maybe Kate, the romantic object for Hawthorne. The plot moves along at a good clip, despite any real cliffhangers or other such gimmicks to keep one reading. The writing is above board as always with a Dobyns novel, the setting is beautiful and isolated and the tension between the characters is palpable as it steadily rises and reaches its breaking point. While I still think I favor, The Burn Palace over this, this is a pretty solid effort I'd recommend to basically anyone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judith Yeabsley

    A bit too long and a bit too slow. I disliked the ending as it seemed sensational for sensational's sake. However, what I did love was the way that conflict and the undermining of the new Principal built. It was a lesson in how easily a collective of mediocre staff can derail even the best leader. It was almost uncomfortable to read as it was so easy to imagine oneself placed in this thankless position. Overall the way it was written kept me reading but the, in my mind, unnecessary ending kind o A bit too long and a bit too slow. I disliked the ending as it seemed sensational for sensational's sake. However, what I did love was the way that conflict and the undermining of the new Principal built. It was a lesson in how easily a collective of mediocre staff can derail even the best leader. It was almost uncomfortable to read as it was so easy to imagine oneself placed in this thankless position. Overall the way it was written kept me reading but the, in my mind, unnecessary ending kind of ruined it for me. It took subtle menace and turned it into cheap thriller. I would like to try his Church of Dead Girls though.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Mortimer

    This thriller has it all. The drama, murder, and suspense. It's like Dobyns took the game Clue and turned it into a book. Excellent read although I felt at times that there was too much going on. At times I would find myself confused with which characters were on which side. The biggest thing that bothered me about this book was the title. It does the novel no justice. It would be like someone writing a book about a circus and then naming the book Monkeys. This thriller has it all. The drama, murder, and suspense. It's like Dobyns took the game Clue and turned it into a book. Excellent read although I felt at times that there was too much going on. At times I would find myself confused with which characters were on which side. The biggest thing that bothered me about this book was the title. It does the novel no justice. It would be like someone writing a book about a circus and then naming the book Monkeys.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This started out promising: interesting characters, rich backstory, strife. And the book teased at a big, involved, secret twist with layers on layers of betrayal. And then, it just... kind of... stopped. All the conflict between the headmaster and the teachers got swept away, threads were left hanging. I was looking for something quick and engrossing, and it delivered right up until it didn't. Meh, overall. This started out promising: interesting characters, rich backstory, strife. And the book teased at a big, involved, secret twist with layers on layers of betrayal. And then, it just... kind of... stopped. All the conflict between the headmaster and the teachers got swept away, threads were left hanging. I was looking for something quick and engrossing, and it delivered right up until it didn't. Meh, overall.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaye Arnold

    Great from start to finish. This thriller was unlike anything else I've read. Set in an old boarding school, there are a lot of people wanting it to close....but a new head master threatens to keep the school open at all costs. Meanwhile, someone is playing mind games, trying to scare the head master away.....and then the murders begin...... Highly recommended to all that want a good, chilling read. Great from start to finish. This thriller was unlike anything else I've read. Set in an old boarding school, there are a lot of people wanting it to close....but a new head master threatens to keep the school open at all costs. Meanwhile, someone is playing mind games, trying to scare the head master away.....and then the murders begin...... Highly recommended to all that want a good, chilling read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Punit Sahani

    A better end for Hawthore's sake. After all that bone breaking run around and psychological turnmoil and abrupt ending does not leave me happy. There should have been an end to the evil father too, Jessica to get back to het senses, Bishop's hill seeing a new sun and much more. A better end for Hawthore's sake. After all that bone breaking run around and psychological turnmoil and abrupt ending does not leave me happy. There should have been an end to the evil father too, Jessica to get back to het senses, Bishop's hill seeing a new sun and much more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I really liked this book; plenty of twists and turns, no loose threads, and best of all the characters jump off the page.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Penny Hoover

    Started ok and got exciting, then fell off the rails for me the last 75 pages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Glen Guldbeck

    Tremendous!!! Highly recommended...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Block

    Build up with numerous characters/dumb decisions at the end going out in a snow storm

  25. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

    Poor Dobyns - on the back of my edition, Time Out is quoted...."Stephen King with a PhD. Knowing I am a fan of SK, this book was suggested to me and I looked forward to a stonking good read. I can only think that the Time Out reviewer has never read a Stephen King book, or he would know that whilst Dobyns seems to be a competent thriller writer, he doesn't, on this showing, have the skills in characterisation and mood building, of narrative drive and suspense building, that SK can wield before b Poor Dobyns - on the back of my edition, Time Out is quoted...."Stephen King with a PhD. Knowing I am a fan of SK, this book was suggested to me and I looked forward to a stonking good read. I can only think that the Time Out reviewer has never read a Stephen King book, or he would know that whilst Dobyns seems to be a competent thriller writer, he doesn't, on this showing, have the skills in characterisation and mood building, of narrative drive and suspense building, that SK can wield before breakfast. From reading other reviews it seems that this is not his best work and it was good enough for me to try another if I come across one, but I wouldn't go looking.... Of this particular text, there aren't many surprises, and there isn't anyone to care deeply about - the main protagonists are stock characters - the flawed goodies and the baddies with redeeming features, and the chorus line of shallow cowards whose egos are greater than their abilities. Our hero is rather colourless and driven by an event that reads as far-fetched in its complexity. A simple fire and a bit of guilt would have sufficed, but rings driven into door frames seem ridiculous and diminish the verisimilitude that pins my heart to a story. The narrative is driven by responses that are too grand for the hackneyed seeds of their birth. Can you really go from being a medium sized fish in a small pond in the middle of nowhere, to being a Machiavellian of outrageous greed and callousness, and be able to drag innocuous fellows along with you? Where SK can depict levels of evil that surprise even those who succumb to them, Dobyns asks us to believe that unexceptional people can be driven, by what is basically greed (a greed focussed on a modest outcome, we're not talking Bugatti and Bahamas here), to be egregiously ghastly. I am well aware that ordinary people can do awful things, but not for these paltry reasons. And the end, oh the end - no spoilers, but Yawn! Seen it too many times....yawn, yawn, yawn.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessie (Zombie_likes_cake)

    Neither drama nor thriller in the end, "Boy in the Water" stays indistinct and slurred throughout its whole, nor does it ever turn really good I must sadly say. The plot dribbles almost insignificantly to its climax to send you home with an epilogue that suddenly tries to squeeze a deeper meaning in, I just wish the story itself had presented that deeper meaning. Where was the wit, the suspense, the atmosphere and the ambiguity of "Church of Dead Girls"? If I wouldn't have known I would have swor Neither drama nor thriller in the end, "Boy in the Water" stays indistinct and slurred throughout its whole, nor does it ever turn really good I must sadly say. The plot dribbles almost insignificantly to its climax to send you home with an epilogue that suddenly tries to squeeze a deeper meaning in, I just wish the story itself had presented that deeper meaning. Where was the wit, the suspense, the atmosphere and the ambiguity of "Church of Dead Girls"? If I wouldn't have known I would have sworn this is not the same writer. Most characters and events in this book seem to be there simply to fill more pages, there really isn't much to them and what we get is not always believable. One or two real surprises would have gone long ways, the few that were added could be seen from miles away, not every story needs to come with a twist but this one really needed something. Written amiably enough it did hold my focus but with every page I wondered more and more why I should bother with it any longer. And then it started getting annoying, repetitive even, at times the dialogues turned bad B-movie material. This story really didn't cut it for me, it turned out to be one of those books where I have hard time imagining someone who would care much for it. You know, there are these books one dislikes but can think of someone else who it could work better for. No such thinking here. I probably will give Dobyns another chance though since I think "CoDG" is one of the best thrillers ever written but boy he better ought to deliver next time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda Branham Greenwell

    I really liked Dobyns other 2 books that I read - but I had a difficult time with this one. Hawthorne takes a job as head of a private school with mostly children who have problems. Hawthorne's wife and daughter died several years previously in a tragic fire - and he is trying to start a new life. The teachers at the school want things to stay the same - and Hawthorne is making changes...changes they don't like. Anonymous notes against Hawthorne begin appearing in the teachers mailboxes... someon I really liked Dobyns other 2 books that I read - but I had a difficult time with this one. Hawthorne takes a job as head of a private school with mostly children who have problems. Hawthorne's wife and daughter died several years previously in a tragic fire - and he is trying to start a new life. The teachers at the school want things to stay the same - and Hawthorne is making changes...changes they don't like. Anonymous notes against Hawthorne begin appearing in the teachers mailboxes... someone is trying to cause problems for Hawthorne. Also, one of the students, Jessica, is having problems of her own. She is trying to save herself and her brother from her step-father I was tempted to skip through to the end and just see what happened rather than continue reading... but I stuck with it. The outcome was okay. I really liked Church of Dead Girls, and Burn Palace - this one was just okay

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Feela

    I was intrigued, at first. As a former school teacher myself, I could feel that Dobyns has his finger on the pulse of a school,-- in this case, a private one, but not so far-fetched from the politics and antics of most. And the mystery is both haunting and scary, at first. But (yes, the inevitable but) as the mystery develops, bit by bit, I get the sense that the new headmaster, Hawthorne, lacks the sense to understand his own psychological issues. What's worse, he's a famous psychologist. He be I was intrigued, at first. As a former school teacher myself, I could feel that Dobyns has his finger on the pulse of a school,-- in this case, a private one, but not so far-fetched from the politics and antics of most. And the mystery is both haunting and scary, at first. But (yes, the inevitable but) as the mystery develops, bit by bit, I get the sense that the new headmaster, Hawthorne, lacks the sense to understand his own psychological issues. What's worse, he's a famous psychologist. He becomes one of those characters from a low-budget movie that won't leave the house when all sense says to go, which gets frustrating for the reader. And then, when the killer becomes obvious, the entire book becomes one of those made-for-television scripts, with every conceivable conceit thrown in at the end except scraping one's fingernails across a chalkboard. I must say, I was disappointed, in case you haven't noticed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jordi

    I can't understand why this author is so underrated regarding his mistery thrillers. I have enjoyed so far this one, and some years ago his most known Church of dead girls, which is superb. This is a great suspense book, perfectly written and very atmospheric (which is maybe the best valuable characteristic here). The characters are well drawn too and the plot, even being "spoiled" pretty soon and somehow predictable, the way the great Stephen writes, as well as the perfectly detailed and painted I can't understand why this author is so underrated regarding his mistery thrillers. I have enjoyed so far this one, and some years ago his most known Church of dead girls, which is superb. This is a great suspense book, perfectly written and very atmospheric (which is maybe the best valuable characteristic here). The characters are well drawn too and the plot, even being "spoiled" pretty soon and somehow predictable, the way the great Stephen writes, as well as the perfectly detailed and painted scenario, makes of this book a very enjoyable read I regretted finish, and a very appropriated red for this season. I hope this author creates more works like this one anytime soon, I have The burn palace too, which I have not still read, but I save it on my shelves as gold, waiting for the moment when i feel like reading a sure bet.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    I just finished this haunting tale which takes place at a boarding school in Northern New England. Dobyns must have been a teacher at some point and likely one at a boarding school or a small independent school. He captures the close knit community remarkably well. Except for the truly darkest parts of this novel, you can imagine this story taking place at any small independent school where the faculty has been allowed to indulge for far too long and where outsiders are immediately mistrusted an I just finished this haunting tale which takes place at a boarding school in Northern New England. Dobyns must have been a teacher at some point and likely one at a boarding school or a small independent school. He captures the close knit community remarkably well. Except for the truly darkest parts of this novel, you can imagine this story taking place at any small independent school where the faculty has been allowed to indulge for far too long and where outsiders are immediately mistrusted and held at a distance. His writing is such that you spend the entire novel suspecting all of the characters and rightfully so as each character moves in a sinister and shady space within the school. A gripping novel from beginning to end, I highly recommend this one!

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