A murder-mystery set in an exclusive English boarding school, where somebody's dark past may lead to the school's destruction.
Audere, agere, auferre.
To dare, to strive, to conquer.
For generations, privileged young men have attended St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, groomed for success by the likes of Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics teacher who has been a fixture there for more than thirty years. But this year the wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork, and information technology are beginning to overshadow St. Oswald's tradition, and Straitley is finally, and reluctantly, contemplating retirement. He is joined this term by five new faculty members, including one who -- unbeknownst to Straitley and everyone else -- holds intimate and dangerous knowledge of St. Oswald's ways and secrets. Harboring dark ties to the school's past, this young teacher has arrived with one terrible goal: to destroy St. Oswald's.
As the new term gets under way, a number of incidents befall students and faculty alike. Beginning as small annoyances -- a lost pen, a misplaced coffee mug -- they are initially overlooked. But as the incidents escalate in both number and consequence, it soon becomes apparent that a darker undercurrent is stirring within the school. With St. Oswald's unraveling, only Straitley stands in the way of its ruin. The veteran teacher faces a formidable opponent, however -- a master player with a bitter grudge and a strategy that has been meticulously planned to the final move, a secret game with very real, very deadly consequences.
A harrowing tale of cat and mouse, this riveting, hypnotically atmospheric novel showcases New York Times bestselling author Joanne Harris's astonishing storytelling talent as never before.
If there's one thing I've learned in the past fifteen years, it's this: that murder is really no big deal. It's just a boundary, meaningless and arbitrary as all others -- a line drawn in the dirt.
Like the giant no trespassers sign on the drive to St. Oswald's, straddling the air like a sentinel. I was nine years old at the time of our first encounter, and it loomed over me then with the growling menace of a school bully.
no unauthorized entry beyond this point by order
Another child might have been daunted by the command. But in my case curiosity overrode the instinct. By whose order? Why this point and not another? And most importantly, what would happen if I crossed that line?
Of course I already knew the school was out of bounds. By then I'd been living in its shadow for six months, and already that tenet stood tall among the commandments of my young life, as laid down by John Snyde. Don't be a sissy. Look ...
At its heart, with its finite cast of characters from which we know the villain and the victims must come, Gentlemen and Players is a classic "country house" whodunit . However, it is also a deliciously complicated literary thriller set in two time periods with three narrative perspectives, which also serves as a fine cautionary tale. Harris, who hates to be typecast, has done it again - she's taken the risk of changing genres and carried it off in style!
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1069 words).
The English School System
Established in medieval times, the original purpose of grammar schools was to educate select members of the young in the grammar of Latin and other useful topics.
In 1944 England established a tripartite education system which placed grammar schools at the top of the heap. Less gifted children (as defined by those who failed an entrance exam at the age of eleven) attended either secondary modern schools or technical schools. In the 1960s the Labour government tried to do away with the grammar school system by introducing comprehensive schools which taught all ability levels.
In response, some grammar schools moved to a fee paying system but retained their "grammar school" designation, and some ...
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'With its intriguing plot, chilling conclusion and characters who exhibit universal and timeless feelings, this fresh first has all the potential to evolve into a series as enduring as Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael books.'
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