“It’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips meets The Bad Seed. Joanne Harris’s latest novel, Different Class, has a killer elevator pitch and, what’s more, it delivers on its intriguing premise….[A] rich, dramatic tale that builds to a surprising conclusion.” —The Washington Post
“Harris delivers mischief and murder to an English prep school in Different Class, a delightfully malicious view of privileged students with overly active imaginations.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the New York Times bestselling author of Chocolat comes a dark, psychological suspense tale in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about a sociopathic young outcast at an antiquated prep school and the curmudgeonly Latin teacher who uncovers his dangerous secret.
After thirty years at St. Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, England, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its own clowns, rebels, and underdogs—all who hold a special place in the old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t quite fit the mold. A troublemaker. A boy with darkness inside.
With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new headmaster arrives at the venerable school, bringing with him new technology, sharp suits, and even girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist these steps toward the future, a shadow from his past begins to stir again. A boy who still haunts Straitley’s dreams twenty years later. A boy capable of terrible things.
Roy Straitley, the narrator of this tepid psychological thriller from Edgar-finalist Harris (Gentlemen and Players), teaches Latin at St. Oswald's, a British boys boarding school. He favors those he terms his Brodie Boys, a gaggle of misfits much like him. Interspersed with Straitley's account (which is set in 2005) are 1981 journal entries of an unnamed St. Oswald's boy addressed to a frenemy nicknamed Mousey and flashbacks to a 1981 incident that resulted in the arrest of teacher Harry Clarke, a friend of Straitley's, for sexual misconduct and something far worse. Straitley is shocked to learn that someone involved in that 1981 incident, Johnny Harrington, who was then a somewhat troublesome St. Oswald's student, has been appointed the school's new head. Straitley, whose old-fashioned ways aren't appreciated by the progressive new administration, finds himself politely being shown the door, though he's positive something more sinister is going on. Harris doles out information painstakingly slowly, to the point of irritation, despite a fascinating milieu and important social issues.