When the first line of a book is, "If there's one thing I've learned in the past fifteen years, it's this: that murder is really no big deal," it's impossible to stop there. In Joanne Harris's Gentlemen & Players [Morrow, Jan. 3], an unnamed narrator—symbolized by a black pawn—is out to destroy St. Oswald's school for boys. The narrator's point of view alternates with that of Roy Straitley, the classics master—symbolized by a white knight—who seems to be the destroyer's main target. Strange and ominous events begin to befall faculty and students alike, while we gradually learn the motivation behind the narrator's determination to wreak havoc at St. Oswald's. With a delicate balance between wry humor and dark suspense, this novel was a delight from start to finish.