I had been looking forward to this book for a long time. Joanne Harris is one of my all-time favourite authors. Her Malbry Cycle books are a delightful and dark departure from her much more whimsical French novels, and when she announced that she was writing a third book set in the rather sinister town of Malbry, I was stoked.
“Different Class” by Joanne Harris revisits St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys, and the Latin master Roy Straitley who in an increasingly modernised world is the school’s unlikely keystone. When a new principal is appointed, and a number of changes are introduced, Straitley finds himself reminded of some sinister events that happened decades ago. The parallels become too much of a coincidence, and Straitley finds himself making some unusual alliances to protect the school, his students and ultimately himself.
I don’t really want to give too much away, but this is Harris at her finest. Joanne Harris is a master of the literary slight of hand, and with narration swapping between Straitley and the mysterious and murderous author of an old diary, this novel is full of surprises and the perfect amount of tension. After reading her other novels in this series, I was not disappointed and devoured this book in no time at all.
Harris says herself that you don’t need to read the books in order of publication in order to enjoy them, and I think that’s probably true. However if you’re a stickler for order, I’d start with “Gentlemen and Players” then “Blueeyedboy” before finishing with “Different Class”. So, if you’re in the mood for an extremely well-written thriller in an unusual setting with social issues expertly woven in throughout, I cannot recommend this book enough.