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The American Boy [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Taylor
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The No.1 bestseller and award-winning Richard & Judy Book Club pick. An atmospheric and deeply absorbing literary historical crime classic - available for the first time as an ebook.

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the child’s sensitive best friend, Charles Frant. Helplessly drawn to Frant’s beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes entwined in their family’s affairs.

When a brutal murder takes place in London’s seedy backstreets, it is not certain who either the victim or the killer is. But all clues seem to lead back to the Frant household, and Shield is tangled in a web of lies, money, sex and death that threatens to tear his new life apart.

And what of the strange American boy at the heart of these macabre events – what is the dark secret of young Edgar Allan Poe?


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Review

‘Hugely entertaining, beguiling and atmospheric’ Observer (Books of the Year)

'A wonderful book, richly composed and beautifully written, an enthralling read from start to finish' The Times (Top Ten Crime Novels of the Decade)

'Creates an atmosphere close to Sarah Waters' Fingersmith … Deeply absorbing and beautifully written' Independent

'A most artful and delightful book, that will both amuse and chill, and it will have you desperate to search out a quiet corner to continue your acquaintance with it' Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)

From the Author

The American Boy is a historical novel, a murder mystery and a love story. I set out to write a Wilkie Collins novel set in Jane Austen's England - and with Edgar Allan Poe, then 10 years old, among the secondary characters. But Poe has more effect on the course of events than either he or the narrator Tom Shield realises.

In a way there are two narratives - the love story and murder mystery with the schoolmaster and Waterloo veteran Tom Shield at its heart; and the secret narrative of Poe and his imagination that flows like an underground river beneath.

Poe's mother was English. The novel takes as its starting point the fact that Poe as a boy spent five years in England with his foster parents. They lived in London, and Poe went to school in Stoke Newington, then a leafy village.

At that time, just after Waterloo, Great Britain was the world's solitary superpower. London was the greatest city ever known: Washington, New York and Los Angeles rolled into one with a dash of Las Vegas. It was also a huge building site, as the surrounding countryside disappeared beneath new houses, and new roads were punched through the maze of existing streets. Then as now, opulence rubbed shoulders with appalling poverty.

America, by contrast, was a brash little country, less than forty years old, on the edge of the civilised world. The recent War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain had ended in stalemate, despite the fact that the British captured Washington and burned the Capitol and the White House.

Poe's life was bracketed between two mysteries. First, when he was little more than a baby, his actor-father vanished. His English-born mother died soon afterwards, leaving him to the care of foster parents.

Second, Poe himself vanished, a few days before his death in 1849. He disappeared from Richmond, Virginia, and reappeared a week later in Baltimore, Maryland - in a state of mental agony and physical prostration. He said that the best thing a friend could do for him would be to blow out his brains with a pistol. Four days later he was dead. No one knows where he had been or what had happened to him, any more than they know what happened to his father.

These unresolved mysteries formed part of the inspiration for The American Boy. Edgar Allan Poe is the author of "The Raven", America's most famous poem, and one of the founding fathers of many branches of modern literature - among them the detective story, the ghost story, science fiction, and the psychological thriller. His admirers included Dickens and Baudelaire, Abraham Lincoln and Josef Stalin.

But his work and reputation are also known to people who rarely read a book. Like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, Poe's creations have become part of our common culture. Poe has inspired musicians from Rachmaninov to Lou Reed. His works underpins films, plays, ballets and a Simpsons Halloween special. Michael Jackson is reported to be working on a movie in which he will play Poe. Poe's fascination with morbid psychology, with the dark secrets of the human heart, have a universal resonance.

For more information, try the excellent website of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, Maryland


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More About the Author

Andrew Taylor is a British crime and historical novelist, winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger (for lifelong excellence in the genre) and many other awards. His books include the international bestseller, The American Boy (a Richard and Judy selection); the Roth Trilogy (filmed for TV as Fallen Angel); The Anatomy of Ghosts, shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year; The Scent of Death, winner of the Historical Dagger; and The Silent Boy.

He is also the author of three Kindle Singles novellas - Broken Voices; The Leper House; and The Scratch.

He lives on the borders of England and Wales. He is the Spectator's crime fiction reviewer.

For more information about Andrew Taylor and his books, see: www.andrew-taylor.co.uk

Follow on twitter: @andrewjrtaylor

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The American Boy is an enthralling tale that takes place in 19th century London. Thomas Shield is a schoolmaster, who, in the course of his duties, meets two young boys: Charles Frant and Edgar Allan. Through these boys, Mr. Shields is introduced to London's high society and in particular, two wealthy banking families: the Frants and Carswells. Shield is immediately attracted to the striking Mrs. Frant and Miss Carswell. But two murders propel the story forward to its unexpected, terrifying conclusion.

The author's fluid prose and authentic 19th century language is totally captivating. One gets immediately transported to the past unlike other historical novels. Don't get fooled: the story is about Thomas Shield's narrative account of the Wavenhoe banking family and the murder or disappearance of Mr. Henry Frant, not Edgar Allan Poe. The boy, who later becomes the famous mystery writer, is only peripheral character, and yet his actions, subtle as they are, actually affect the course of events. Taylor uses this technique brilliantly. Furthermore, the author's deft use of other historical events, such as the Banking crisis and the War of 1812, as well as an authentic portrayal of the notorious London slums make for a satisfying and gritty novel.
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148 of 152 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 500 pages of escapism bliss ! Buy it ! 20 April 2005
Format:Paperback
Here's another book I only read because it was on the list of 10 books nominated for a Best Read Award on Richard and Judy. The author was new to me and I was also not in the habit of reading historical fiction. So this book was a wonderful surprise and having read it I could fully understand all the praise heaped upon it.
Once I began it was hard to put the book down.This is almost 500 pages of escapism bliss as Taylor's beautifully told tale slowly unfolds. It's a hybrid of historical and crime fiction that is incredibly atmospheric of nineteenth century London. The novel it most reminds me of,if you want a pointer, is Wilkie Collins' "Woman in White" and the fact that I compare it to that great classic shows how highly I think of this book.If you like Wilkie Collins or maybe even Charles Dickens you will love this book.
I see no point in revealing any details of the intricate plot as I'm sure any literate reader will be quickly gripped by Thomas Shield's quest.I will,however,say that I was pleased with the conclusion of the book, which is not one of those banal denouements where all the loose ends are miraculously tidied up and everyone lives happily ever after.
If you are looking for an engrossing and pleasurable read you cannot possibly go wrong with this book. I can guarantee that you will be enthralled and perhaps a bit sad that it isn't even longer !
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars almost riveting enough to pull a sickie for 26 Jan. 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I hadn't seen any hype or reviews or indeed the blessed R&Judy when I bought this book - it just looked intriguing. I was utterly swept away by it and couldn't put it down. I found myself reading until 3am, and was glad of a day off as otherwise I would have been tempted to pull a sickie to finish it. The atmosphere, the story-telling, the landscapes, the descriptions: all were wonderful, and definitely reminiscent of the brilliant Wilkie Collins. Rarely has a book grabbed my attention and caught me up so dramatically as this one did.
BUT - and this is a big but - it all fell apart at the end. The unravelling of the plot was needlessly confusing and over-involved, and I felt deeply disappointed. I also felt not enough was made of Edgar Allan Poe - I was really expecting a final Poe-esque twist involving burials alive, or ravens, or something similar.
So - almost brilliant, but too complicated by half at the end. I wondered if he'd actually plotted the book, or whether after writing most of it he suddenly found himself having to come up with a solution to the mystery and couldn't find his way out.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining.... 8 Dec. 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was a real page turner. I was hooked straight away! Sometimes I had to turn back a few pages and double check what had happened, not because the book was confusing but because I was so eager to discover the next part of the tale that I was not really concentrating on detail, which turns out to be important. The characters were easy to connect with and Thomas Shields quest was so intruiging that I could not put this book down.
Definitely recommended reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Enjoyable 28 Sept. 2007
By Fiona
Format:Paperback
After reading the Roth trilogy by the same author, I felt suddenly bereft of a good book - so I turned to this book to fill a hole. The problem is that I have now finished it and there is yet another hole for me to fill.

The American Boy is superbly written. The style of writing matches that of someone from the early 19th Century which makes the whole thing even more compelling. You will be sucked back in time by Thomas Shield - the first person narrator of this book. I think that is part of the beauty of it.

Andrew Taylor has a wonderful ability to take you to unfamiliar territory but in the most subtle and elegant way make it seem familiar and intimate.

It is not a very fast paced novel, or a very slow one. The beginning could be seen as a slow one but I am not the kind of person who needs to enter a book running, so it doesn't bother me very much. I found the style and narration beautiful and also curious. I enjoyed the characters and the setting.

A brilliant book that begins slowly and then quickly snowballs into a completely satisfying climax. I would recommend.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, what more can I say?
This book was recommended to me by a friend and am I glad I gave it a try. I had never heard of the author and was bowled over by the plot, the writing and the sheer ingenuity of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by sweetpea
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Nearly finished this - good story with convincing period detail that reminds me of the detail in Dickens' Pickwick Papers.
Published 1 month ago by M. Cunningham
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative Victoriana
Unusual plot line. Worth a read.
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Trollope of the era in which we live.
A lovely historical novel set just after Napoleon and bringing an interesting slant on America/British America/British family intrigue. A good whodunit if a trifle lurid.
Published 3 months ago by Anthony Greenwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner
Thoroughly loved this book. Well researched, fascinating detail, interesting descriptions of the various characters all brought to life in nineteenth century London entwined with a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Babs
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Top writer. Wilkie Collins on steroids!
Published 4 months ago by Lee bee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good
Published 4 months ago by alan white
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
Hard going but sticking with it
Published 4 months ago by Terry Madgwick
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Once you get into it you are kept guessing with lots of twists and turns and a few surprises tp
Published 4 months ago by Mira
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Present
Published 4 months ago by MAN
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