Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

 

Mystery

Gentlemen and players Gentlemen and PlayersJoanne Harris; William Morrow 2006WorldCat

St. Oswald’s Grammar School is a private school for the more privileged boys in the area. All the less fortunate children go to Sunnybank public school. Snyde had always been an outsider, a nerd, whose father was the porter at St. Oswald’s. Sunnybankers are cruel to the outsiders – isolating them even more. Fourteen years earlier, while John Snyde was still the porter, the child copied the keys to the school, stole a uniform, and became more familiar with the school than anyone else. “Pinchback”, the alias chosen when pretending to be a student, blended in with the boys who belonged and made one close friend, something Snyde had never had. But a tragedy happened. After the tragedy, Mrs. Snyde, now remarried, took her child to Paris to live. Fourteen years later, under a new alias, Snyde has returned as a new teacher at St. Oswald’s – looking for revenge.

Roy Straitley has been the classics and Latin teacher at the school for 30 years. He is close to being a “centurion” – having taught 100 terms at St. Oswald’s. The school is his life. Those are his boys. He is not Mr. Chipps, though. He is a fair teacher, a bit of a curmudgeon, and very clear sighted when it comes to young teen boys. He knows what to expect and how to handle it. But when St. Oswald’s, and himself personally, come under attack, it may be more than he can handle.

Gentlemen & Players was nominated for an Edgar Award this year. Rightly so – it is an awesome book, not the normal murder/suspense novel that rules the genre these days. Joanne Harris plays with the readers’ minds. The tale is told in first person narrative by either Straitley or Snyde. Snyde’s story is split between the present and the 14-year-old memories to explain the grudge against St. Oswald’s and Straitley especially.

I was slowly pulled in, sensing St. Oswald’s close around me while reading. For example, Harris describes the aromas that are prevalent, bringing the place even more to life. In the first chapter Snyde remarks how easy it is to commit murder. At the time the reader doesn’t realize that it isn’t just a person, but a whole institution that is the target of long simmering revenge. Then the twist at the end reshapes the whole novel.

Look for this book at your local library. It’s an intellectual mystery not to miss.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Suggestive dialogue or situations

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