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Gentlemen & Players    by Joanne Harris order for
Gentlemen & Players
by Joanne Harris
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William Morrow, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In Joanne Harris's seventh novel, Gentlemen & Players, she departs from her usual format to spin a tale of murder, suspense and intrigue. The story unfolds at St. Oswald's, a boy's school in England. It is told mainly by the porter's child, who must attend the local school, and by one of the masters at St. Oswald's. The action revolves around the two of them, beginning fifteen years ago, and shows the ramifications of past acts on the community as a whole.

I never feel I can do Joanne Harris justice when reviewing her books. She takes words that you and I use every day and places them together with such precision and beauty that I am humbled. At times I had to stop and re-read passages or paragraphs just to enjoy the manner in which she paints word pictures. But this never interferes with the story line. And what a story. Harris's understanding of how we think is pure delight and moves her plot on with alacrity. Classics teacher Roy Straitley, nearing the end of his teaching life, is challenged by his students daily, but one seems to make a career of it. Personal belongings disappear - but much more disturbing is the death of a student and, fifteen years later, the disappearance of another.

The action and the ruminations of the main characters keep the reader on edge and make page turning a must. I cannot divulge any more than I have. The climax, even though I thought I had it figured out, was still a shocker. Joanne Harris, thank you for another of your wonderful creations.

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