Not the worst book I ever read.
I went through this period in my mid-twenties when I was trying to work out on the elliptical and the bike at the gym, but it was SO BORING that I ended up trying to read. You ever read a book when you are stepping up and down with hips shifting side to side? Yeah, super-challenging with small print books. Oh, this was the mid-to-late 90s, kids, before audio books were a thing beyond the Bible and the classics and phones could be linked to a tv channel or a favorite movie. I discovered mental diversion in the form of thrillers, a genre previously largely unexploited by me. They worked extremely well; I was particularly fond of Robert Parker’s Spenser series and Lee Child’s series. Fast plotting, larger print, lots of white space, not a lot of extraneous detail; perfect for a fluctuating attention level. My physical copy of School Days is an artifact of those days, but unsurprisingly, I remember nothing about it. I decided to clear it off my shelves, passing it on to my dad, but thought I’d give it one quick perusal before it embarked on its next journey.
It’s definitely quick, a one-evening read. This feels like most of the Spenser books as he aged, outlines waiting to be fleshed in, and as such is barely an investigation wrapped in book nostalgia. Chapters generally last four to five pages. We get cursory nods to Spenser patterns; cooking a meal, mention of Hawk, assistance from Healy of the State Patrol, a fight, him being a wiseass and the person he’s interacting with resenting it. Friend appearances are mostly limited to Rita the Super Hot Super Smart Lawyer. That is, besides Pearl the Wonder-Dog, able to sniff out yogurt containers in an office. For those that hate Susan, Spenser’s long-time lady-love, she’s off-screen at a conference for most of the book.
The bare bones is that a rich grandma hires him to prove her grandson ‘didn’t do it,’ a horrific mass shooting at a school in a very wealthy, conservative suburb. The book has aged poorly, in light of the real mass shootings we’ve since witnessed. The parents, the cops, the teachers and everyone want the kid to ‘go away and disappear,’ unanswered questions and all, a marked contrast to the dissection and blame we saw after the Columbine shooting. The kids at the private school are nonplussed by the incident, a mere six months ago. In fact, Spencer and the cops are remarkably undisturbed. Puzzling that Spenser doesn’t even talk to families of the people killed or the wounded when trying to learn more.
As a final trigger for some folks, the resolution hinges on ****SPOILER [ the kid being diagnosed ‘retarded.’ Seriously, no joke; by a psychologist, no less. The rest of the resolution consists of the adults discussing whether or not the kid is ‘retarded’ enough to understand right/wrong but not enough to understand an inappropriate relationship. ]
It makes the book seriously dated.
I gotta say, it’s really only worth it for completionists. I’m happy to send it out on the world to find its own way.
AKA: The one Where Spencer Thinks the Defendant is Guilty.