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Review: Different Class by Joanna Harris

BY James Walton

1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

Review: Different Class by Joanna Harris

The author of the hugely popular novel Chocolat returns with this class based thriller. It's a slow burner with some terrific twists, says James Walton. 

Different Class

After the success of Chocolat—complete with a film version starring Johnny Depp—Joanne Harris could have been forgiven for sticking to food, France, magic and mothers for the rest of her career.

Instead, she’s been impressively willing to try all sorts of genres, with Different Class the third of her thrillers set in the Yorkshire village of Malbry (and, despite a few references to the previous books, a novel that easily stands alone).

The main narrator is Mr Straitley, a long-serving Latin teacher at St Oswald’s independent school, whose fussy but essentially good-natured voice Harris captures beautifully.

For a while, in fact, she has such infectious fun with his aghast reactions to modern educational trends (“PowerPoint… a kind of electronic crib-sheet for idiots”) that the thriller part remains rather in the background. But then again, as Mr S says, “a good book… takes some time to reach full velocity.”

Once this one does, terrific twists pile up at a highly satisfying rate. On reflection, some of them might seem slightly improbable; but only on reflection. When you’re actually reading the book, you’ll be far too hooked to mind.