The opening lines of the prologue to The Secret History by Donna Tartt are both disturbing and effective. Someone goes missing. Someone important enough for a full-blown manhunt. Someone who is found dead under snow in the countryside. But this is no accident. This is part of a "modest plan". One in which the narrator is involved along with others.
And the questions begin to multiply. Who is the victim? Why was he murdered? Who murdered him? Who is the architect of the plan? Who is the narrator? Who are the others? How are they involved?
Tartt ignites our curiosity.
And we read on.
We have to.
"The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history – state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.
It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events. We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found. In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels pointing the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less, and it might have been left at that, at quiet tears and a small funeral, had it not been for the snow that fell that night; it covered him without a trace, and ten days later, when the thaw finally came, the state troopers and the FBI and the searchers from the town all saw that they had been walking back and forth over his body until the snow above it was packed down like ice."
form The Secret History by Donna Tartt