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.
"Fun with a neat twist ... it's a bit like A.J. Wentworth squaring up to the talented Mr. Ripley."
"A strong psychological mystery."
-Times Educational Supplement
"A complex, well-crafted murder mystery, with its author's trademark blend of wit, wisdom and magic."
-Time Out London
"[An] enjoyable mystery romp."
-Sunday Times (London)
"With GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS Harris has tapped an unsuspected talent for writing sophisticated, absorbing suspense."
"Irresistible . . . Constantly surprising and wickedly fun."
-Washington Post Book World
"Very good indeed."
"Best of all is a dazzling climactic twist . . . . its last move is a winner."
-New York Times Book Review
"The gold standard for this year's best mystery...[GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS] left me breathless...a delightful read."
"[A] masterful literary thriller."
-Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press
"Far darker than Chocolat author Harris's previous books, this canny page-turner comes with a satisfying twist."
-Mail on Sunday
"[A] tense, perspective-shifting narrative ... [A] page-turning climax that ... avoids the easy out of a tidy ending."
"Riveting . . . The checkmate is a bold stroke -- so audacious as to send readers, including this one, backtracking."
"[A] gripping psychological thriller. . . . [Harris] cleverly keeps the reader guessing till the very last chapter.
"One of those rare books that grips and holds you . . . [B]oth socially important and vastly entertaining."
"Harris pulls it all off . . . Book groups of the world, watch out."
"[Harris] turns to the literary thriller, with stunning results . . . This is one hypnotic page-turner."
-Booklist (starred review)
"Perfect escapist reading for deep winter."
"[A] clever story of obsession and revenge . . . .[Harris] has scored another success."
-Daily Telegraph (London)
"A cunning, high-brow cat-and-mouse tale ... [W]ill keep even the sharpest readers off-guard."
"Don't start this one late in the evening, unless you plan to stay up all night. It's that gripping."
"A literary gobstopper with an aniseed heart."
"[A] disturbing yet strangely rewarding morality tale . . . Not every chess game ends with a checkmate."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)