The dual narrators in this unusual thriller present a simple, yet complex tale of murder mayhem and mystery. Comparisons with The Talented Mr Ripley are well justified, certainly from the point of view of the nature of the leading characters.
It’s clear that Joanne Harris has worked in a public school, and her observations on the nature of teaching, and of these institutions, remote from, yet replete with real life, seem accurate. The narrative structure is effective in engaging the reader; we see the school as an outsider, an intruder, from the viewpoint of someone excluded by wealth and social class: many of us could identify with this. At the same time we are given a more incisive and intellectual critique from within, through the character of a teacher, nearing retirement and sceptical of the many educational initiatives foisted on the school by a bureaucratic head.
There are several surprises, and for the whodunnit fan this book has lots to offer. Chess becomes a simple theme as the novel develops: Knight and Bishop are two characters – but this is a frippery. Roy Straitley, the 65 year old classics teacher, and one of the two narrators becomes increasingly sympathetic, but as might be expected from a Classics teacher of this age, his narrative voice did, at times, become a little ennuyant. The resolution was satisfying: a clever and well planned drawing together of the threads of the narrative.
Not my usual choice of read, but you may like it!