Because I am an ONG (Original Nerd Girl), there are certain books I read at certain times of the year. Fall into winter means it's time to pull out The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Set in a Vermont Liberal Arts college, this novel explores the effects of a murder on a group of friends. I have probably read this book fifty times, and the ending still surprises me, even though I know it's coming. I hesitate to give away too many of the details. There are characters here that are some of the most realistic people you will ever encounter in a work of fiction, including the narrator, Richard Papen. Richard comes from California to Vermont to attend college, and falls in with a group of wealthy Classics students who are enigmatic, flawed, and so wonderful to spend time with. You will fall in love with them, just a little. The novel works as a murder mystery in reverse, revealing the killing and the killers at the start, and then building the story of the circumstances that lead up to the murder throughout the rest of the book.
Tartt's descriptive talents and plotting will wow you, especially considering this is her first novel. Unfortunately, although this book was published in 1992, Tartt has only written one additional novel, the tragic The Little Friend, also a great read, but more of a summer book. I keep hoping that she's been working away at something truly mind blowing all of these years. The Secret History is in my top twenty-five books of all time. Give it a go on a chilly evening, and see if it doesn't charm you.