Jeffery Stone looked over the sea of despondent young faces as he gave assembly, occasionally glancing up at the steel frame of the atrium.
– Opening sentence
The Teacher begins with the mysterious and sinister death of the headmaster of a private boys’ school; a truly gripping opening that sets the tone for the rest of the book.
A psychological crime thriller, The Teacher describes itself as “most definitely not for the faint-hearted” – an enticing statement! After reading American Psycho, I felt like nothing would be able to shock me anymore – and I started The Teacher with similar expectations.
And I was right – The Teacher didn’t shock me in the sense that I was expecting. Despite having its fair share of gruesome murders (and an appallingly sinister story), there wasn’t enough detail described to make my toes curl and stomach churn in horror or disgust. Perhaps that’s just because I’ve become desensitised to gore generally, but I can’t help but feel like Diamond (the author) drew herself a fairly ‘safe’ line and avoided crossing it.
It was Chapter 5 when I was first left slightly disappointed by this lack of detail. That’s when I was first left wanting more – I wanted to be teased more; I wanted the suspense to be hammed up to make the scene (read: murder) more dramatic and more shocking. Instead I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed, like it had all happened too quickly. I felt like I wasn’t given enough time to fully appreciate the weight of what had happened. A guy had been murdered in a seriously messed-up way, and yet it seemed to ‘just’ happen. No biggie.
This could have been a deliberate decision. Diamond’s killer is described as being emotionless despite the gruesome way in which he murders his victims – perhaps the writing style was a planned attempt to make the reader feel how the murderer does – as if it’s no big deal at all? Somehow, I know that this probably isn’t the case though.
(I’d be interested to see if anyone else shares these feelings with me – comment and let me know!)
However, this is only a minor criticism of mine, for I quickly became thoroughly engrossed in The Teacher, and even cried at the end of Chapter 16. This is a BIG deal by the way – the only other book that has made me cry is The Book Thief, which either means I was particularly emotional when reading Chapter 16, or that Diamond is a powerful writer with the ability to make her reader’s cry through the raw emotions conveyed through her characters (it’s obviously the latter).
That being said, the pacing was off in some places – the story was slowly developing nicely and then suddenly things escalated very quickly in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of way. I was also slightly upset by the predictability of the story – I guessed who the murderer was pretty early on and was half-hoping that there would be some unexpected plot twist that proved me wrong; unfortunately there wasn’t.
I feel like all I’ve done is criticise this book. PLEASE don’t think it’s because I thought it was bad, because I really don’t. The Teacher is pretty special, especially considering it’s Diamond’s first novel, and I’m only picking at it because that’s what I do. I pick apart books.
For any lover of crimes and thrillers, The Teacher is a must-read that you should add to your collection. But even for those who aren’t big on crime novels (like myself) – The Teacher will grip you from the very beginning and leave you unable to put it down until the very end.
(4 / 5)
With his hand on Tom’s head he waited for the circus.
– Final sentence