Kate Weinbeg’s The Truants is another of those books that came recommended to me. A woven tale of strong personalities, this one is a smashing read that moves in lazy circles to its conclusion while exploring the actions of the characters.

She focuses on Jess Walker, the middle child of five siblings who has felt lost in her family, and has decided to attend a Norfolk university to follow the author of a book that had impressed her.

The book, The Truants, was written by Lorna Clay, Agatha Christie expert, and Jess soon finds herself immersed in the unconventional teacher’s world on many levels. Lorna ferrets out Christie’s life and history for her students while challenging them to dig deeper. With her fiery red hair, unconscious way of dressing, and erratic lifestyle, Clay is the darling of the literature group.

Jess soon finds herself swept up in group of four friends, with the usual sense of pairings. Georgie is her friend and classmate, the other woman in the foursome. Nick is ostensibly Jess’s lover. But Jess finds herself drawn to Georgie’s partner, Alec Van Zanten, a South African journalist on a fellowship. Enigmatic, prone to storytelling, Alec has some very good ones to tell that rival Lorna’s and soon casts a forbidden spell on Jess.

The foursome become inseparable until actions spiral out of control. As Jess moves closer to Lorna and her influence, inconsistencies in the history of everyone arouond her have Jess floundering. She reaches out to the one person she feels can save her when she has her own crisis, only to be brought up short by shocking news.

Trying to separate the reality from the fiction, Jess soon realizes half the stories she’s been fed are fabrications.

With more than a nod to Christie, Weinberg’s very modern story grips the reader in the same insidious way that the Alec and Lorna grip Jess Walker. A terrific read.