This is the first of two books by Joanne Harris, set at the St. Oswald’s School for boys (second book is Different Class).

It’s a dark psychological thriller, about class distinctions, secrets, jealousy and the effects that a damaged childhood can potentially have.

Set in a private school (which reminds me of a cross between Jennings and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts) and centred on the character of Roy Straitley, the Latin and classics master who occupies one of the classrooms in the school tower (where they’re not mentioned, but I imagine owls to be swooping around, like at Hogwarts!). Having already taught for 99 terms, now starting his 100th and nearing retirement, popular, but eccentric teacher Straitley is hoping for a quiet term smoking his cigarettes in his classroom when the headmaster isn’t about, and drinking coffee from his favourite mug. Sadly, that’s not to be. With the introduction of computers and newly qualified (and far too enthusiastic) teachers just the start of his concerns. When things start to go missing at the school and a pupil is nearly killed, serious questions start to be asked – compounded when pornography is found on one of the teacher’s computers, which leads to their suspension.

Written from the narration point of two characters, we have Straitley intertwined with the perpetrator – someone who is motivated and determined to bring down both the school, and Roy Straitley, and is happy to bide their time, slowly making their moves and putting their pieces into place.

A good, enjoyable and easy read, and I chuckled out loud at some of the main character’s opinions and statements. This held my attention and although I wouldn’t say it’s fast pasted as such, it’s enjoyable and captivating in a different way, like a nice glass of wine or mug of tea.

Would give this 4 and a ½ stars.

May 2024