Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

There are four underachieving students at a high school, three really just don't care about school. The fourth may not really be all that bright. Teachers seem to relentlessly give them a bad time. One teacher picks on one of the kids especially, a kid with a lisp and a secret that comes out later. On this particular day at school the picked on kid flips his desk, is sent to the Principal's office and simply disappears. He has disappeared before, but this time something feels different. He is gone longer, he took no belongings with him. In the class after the kid leaves, a teacher has decided to try engaging his disinterested students with an unusual ploy. They will be studying Crime and Punishment. Crime and Punishment questions when a crime is a crime and when punishment is punishment. The teacher has a barrel with something hidden inside and asks whats in it. Guesses are wrong. The boys carry the barrel to the teacher's car and load the contents into the trunk. They still do not know what it is, but now have begun to believe that it is the body of their missing friend and that the English teacher has killed the kid. As the days go by the boys become more and more certain that they are right and eventually confront the teacher with devastating results. Weaving together the study of Crime and Punishment with the story of a missing kid is a clever idea. It may have gotten me interested in reading that weighty tome. But, its rather a thin book, there is a lot of I remember sort of chatter that I guess should advance our understanding of the boys but it didn't do that too well and didn't advance the story either. I finally skimmed lightly through a couple of chapters without missing anything as far as I could tell. Its not terrible, its just not all that great. Mystery readers should like it all the same. JDW 1/12/10

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