The Mad Cook of Pymatuning
The Mad Cook of Pymatuning is set in 1952 in an unusual summer camp. Over the years, the couple who own Camp Senica have allowed the boys to discover their strengths through challenges, sometimes involving harmless deception, all for the goal of building self-reliance. Over several summers, Jerry (now seventeen) has worked his way through the camp system from a first-time camper to senior camper and now to junior counselor. But this year camp life takes on a sinister edge with the addition of Buck “Redclaw” Silverstone, expert in Indian lore, to the camp’s faculty.
Author Christopher Lehmann-Haupt maintains suspense throughout, and peoples his fictional camp with believable inmates. Wally, one of Camp Senica’s owners, is almost deliciously the opposite of the cunning and unfathomable Buck. Redclaw is a compelling character, Jerry’s personal challenge, for the teen finds it difficult to convince adults that Redclaw has nefarious motivations. The implication that Redclaw will do harm works well throughout the novel: the transition to the reality of what he truly intends changes the tone in a disturbing way, mirroring Jerry’s shock of being proved so dreadfully right. Not the usual coming-of-age novel and not for the faint of heart!