Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Bestseller Harris (Holy Fools) exposes the brittle line dividing the haves and have-nots in this disturbing yet strangely rewarding morality tale set in the hallowed halls of St. Oswald's, an aristocratic British boys' school hovering on the edge of extinction. Audere, agere, auferre (To dare, to strive, to conquer), the school motto, is something young outsider Snyde, whose father has become St. Oswald's porter (or caretaker), takes painfully to heart after infiltrating the institution as a student under the alias 'Julian Pinchbeck.' Snyde's secret crush on Leon Mitchell, a charismatic upper-class boy, leads to tragic consequences that include the senior Snyde's losing his job. Fifteen years later, Snyde returns, masquerading as a teacher and plotting retribution. Classics teacher Roy Straitley, with his easygoing, ruefully resigned viewpoint, nicely contrasts with Snyde's relentless first-person intensity. Straitley, who loves St. Oswald's, unwittingly proves to be a formidable opponent and provides Snyde with a vital lesson: not every chess game ends with checkmate. Agent, Howard Morhaim. 5-city author tour. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n atypical thriller. Rather than suspense, dramatic irony drives the plot; and two participants, both a little unreliable, tell the story. It's a lot for one novel to do, and Harris isn't quite able to force all the pieces into place." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels—Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen & Players; a short story collection, Jigs & Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.