Halloween Bingo: Dark Academia & Paint It Black

This post covers two, two, two squares in one!

It wasn’t until I came up with the Dark Academia square (Any mystery, horror, suspense or supernatural book that occurs at a school – boarding school, high school, university, college, etc.) for Halloween Bingo that it occurred to me how much I love books with academic settings. I must not be alone here – given how many of them there are, this must be a fairly beloved literary trope.

  • I read Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James last year, and really enjoyed it. It is set in a rather unusual theological seminary on the East Anglian Coast. The book combined the “academic” setting with another element that I love – the isolated, windswept coastal setting. I can’t get enough of books with these themes!
  • In 2019, I read The Cat Among The Pigeons by Agatha Christie. This book is set at a very traditionally untraditional English girl’s school – Meadowbank – and combines murder mystery and political thriller elements. It features some of my favorite side-characters, including Julia Upjohn, the very clever student who solves the mystery and outwits the killer, and Miss Bulstrode, the headmistress. As an aside, the adaptation of this novel for the BBC Poirot series is outstanding, with the always incredible Harriet Walters playing Miss Bulstrode.

And speaking of Harriet Walters, Ms. Walters previously performed the role of Harriet Vane in Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey series. I have never (re)read Gaudy Night, the 10th Wimsey mystery, specifically for this square but that book may be the quintessence of the perfect academic mystery, and I recommend it to absolutely everyone.

This square debuted in either the 2018 or the 2019 game, and I’ve only had it on my card twice previously. I have read additional books set in schools for other squares, including: Some of Us Are Lying (Karen McManus); several of the Harry Potter books (J.K. Rowling), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs), Down a Dark Hall (Lois Duncan), Truly Devious and The Name of the Star (both by Maureen Johnson), and Etiquette and Espionage (Gail Carriger).

This year, my Dark Academia and Paint It Black squares are, coincidentally, side-by-side on my card. In addition, the two books that I have selected for Dark Academia happen to also qualify for Paint It Black, which includes any book with a cover that is predominantly black.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novick: I already have this checked out of the library and am holding off on reading it until the game begins! I’m a fan of Novick’s fairy tale retelling, The Uprooted, and also enjoyed several books in her alternative-history-with-dragons series set during the Napoleonic Wars, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon. This one is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: This has been on my TBR since it was published. It’s set at Yale and with a main character who is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. I have several friends who have loved this book.

If neither of these end up working for me during the game, I can always go back to a Gaudy Night reread – that book is so wonderful I can’t get enough of it. And, fortuitously, several of the Margery Allingham Albert Campion mysteries have covers that would qualify for Paint It Black. Lots of options!.

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