The Ghosts of Schooldays Past

Review: “Goodbye, Ms. Chips, An Ellie Haskell Mystery” by Dorothy Cannell. Random House – Alibi

I have long been a fan of Dorothy Cannell, and her heroine of many mystery adventures, Ellie Haskell. Thus, when the publisher kindly offered me the opportunity to review an advance copy of this book, I was delighted at my good fortune. This disclaimer is presented in the spirit of full disclosure: I had a positive bias toward this author’s works before I opened this latest opus.

Of course, Ms. Cannell did not disappoint. At the start we find Ellie, now happily married, with a handsome husband, a notable residence, and three adorable children. In other words, she is doing quite well. But when her dear friend Dorcas, now the new games mistress at St. Roberta’s boarding school for girls, asks Ellie to help out with a problem at the school, Ellie has decidedly mixed emotions. Ellie, along with Dorcas, attended St. Roberta’s for a time, and has fond memories of Dorcas. But ghosts–stories Ellie carries with her of events that she was part of while in residence at the school–haunt her recollections of her stay at St. Roberta’s. She carries a number of guilty secrets. For starters, she played hooky from lacrosse for a whole term, accidentally broke the nose of the beloved, now retired, games mistress Ms. Chips, and failed to come to the assistance of a fellow student falsely accused of wrongdoing.

Well, despite her qualms, friendship wins out and Ellie comes to St. Roberta’s and takes up temporary residence with three other “old girls.” Ellie’s appointed task is to recover the missing Loverly Cup, a coveted award given each year to winner of the area school’s lacrosse championship match. The situation worsens dramatically when Ms. Chips (now retired) is fatally injured in a fall down the steep steps of the school’s infamous Dribbly Drop. As the story progresses, we meet a number of St. Roberta girls, both old and new, and several faculty members. In the process, Ellie learns that she is not the only one haunted by old stories. The story is multi-layered: stories of old ghosts, haunted lives and secrets of various generations, what happened to the hallowed Lovering Cup, and the tragic loss of Ms. Chips, to list a few. How the author deals with this mixture forms the basis for a thoroughly entertaining, enjoyable, and yet thought-provoking book. Ultimately, Ellie (and we) are reminded that life’s lessons do not end with our school days; learning is a lifelong process. Thank you, Dorothy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *