Mrs. Bradley, celebrated psychoanalyst, arrives at Cartaret women’s training college intending to fill a vacancy left by a house warden from the previous semester. The missing staff member, Miss Murchan, disappeared during the end-of-term dance and failed to surface again. Add to that the possibility that Miss Murchan may have witnessed, or even been involved in, the death of a young student earlier that year, and the warden’s abrupt absence from college begins to look very sinister indeed. Mrs. Bradley ‘s arrival is met with a rash of busy–and sometimes menacing–practical jokes: bathrooms are flooded, snakes are let loose in a classroom, clothing is savagely slashed, and one girl’s hair is cut off while she sleeps. Fortunately, the energetic new warden takes into her confidence the sub-warden, an intelligent young woman named Deborah Cloud, and a trio of colorful students: outgoing, outspoken Laura Menzies, future hairstylist Kitty Trevelyan, and shy but physically strong Alice Boorman. Together, the group combats the increasingly mischievous pranks, but even Mrs. Bradley is unable to anticipate the murder of the house cook: the woman’s body is found downstream in the nearby river, with her corsets floating separately among the weeds. It soon becomes clear that the Cartaret grounds contain a fugitive, but is this person the missing Miss Murchan? And if so, then whose bones were boiled in the abandoned quarry? And what of the rather suspiciously named Miss Cornflake, a new student who possesses the commanding presence of an experienced teacher? Mrs. Bradley keeps admirable track of all these details and more, disarming pistol-wielding mental patients and dodging murderous attackers while moving determinedly towards the mystery’s conclusion.
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