Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
English | 2020 | Mystery & Thriller | ePUB | 1.9 MB
A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.
Trust us, you belong here.
Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years-summers included-completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline-only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school-in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence-might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.
I ran a hand over my stomach. I was going be sick. The back of my throat tasted like sour wine and my ears rang with the echoes of a party: a smutty, fucked-up bass line reverberating through the floor; girls, a lot of them, slurring and yelping; a boy smashing a bottle and screaming to the crowd, “We’re here! We are the kings of the castle!”
The castle. Catherine.
I opened my eyes.
I was lying naked in an empty bathtub. My arms, hanging over either side of the porcelain, had gone numb. Everything in the bathroom was a vague off-white, from the claw-foot tub to the high-tank toilet, the swan-patterned wallpaper, the greasy tiled floor. The only thing I could focus on, by my elbow, was a bar of soap. Its surface was incised with a brutal, flawless C.
Was I dying? Was I dead?
The bathroom door clicked open and a small brown face peeked in. It boggled as it saw me.
“You can come in,” I said.
The girl hesitated. “Really?”
She stepped in and stared down at my naked body with pursed lips. Her mouth was white and moist at the corners, like an old woman’s, and she wore thick plastic-framed glasses that were much too big for her face. Her hair was brushed into four strict black puffs.
“You’re my roommate,” I said.
She nodded. “We met on the stairs, remember? You were going to a party.”
Her voice was so low, flat, and abrupt that it almost didn’t sound like English. She held her right hand cupped awkwardly against her chest.
“I don’t remember your name,” I said.
“Barbara. Barbara Pearce. Everyone calls me Baby.”
“Like.” I burped, covering my mouth with the back of my hand. “Dirty Dancing.”
“I’m Ines,” I said.
“Do you want—a towel?” she said.
She pulled a towel off the rack and handed it to me. I draped it over my lap.
She sat down and leaned against the wall, still cupping her hand. Her pajamas were thin hospital-blue cotton, identical to the ones I had found in my own dresser, and like her glasses, they were much too big for her. They bunched around her dark, skinny ankles and wrists.
“Do you think you’re going to be much longer?” she said. “I—wanted to take a bath.”
“Did you go to the party?” I said. “The one in the Harrington cellar?”
“Only for a minute.”
She picked at the sweater sleeve. “Was it fun?”
I put a hand to my head.