The American Boy

The American Boy

by Andrew Taylor

Interweaving real and fictional elements, The American Boy is a major new literary historical crime novel in the tradition of An Instance of the Fingerpost and Possession.

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the boy's sensitive best friend, Charles Frant.

Despite his efforts, Shield is caught up in a deadly tangle of sex, money, murder and lies -- a tangle that grips him tighter even as he tries to escape from it.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Historical
  • Rating: 3.55
  • Pages: 485
  • Publish Date: July 18th 2013 by HarperCollins
  • Isbn10: 0007109601
  • Isbn13: 9780007109609

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The books I've read of his have a completely different feel, but the writing is undeniably Taylor.

It is about a schoolteacher named Thomas Shield who gets caught up in the private lives of two of his students, one of whom is the young Edgar Allan Poe. Neither one of the boys plays a huge personal role in the drama (Taylor has been criticized for calling his book "the American boy" when it is not actually about Poe per se) but their extended families are front and center, enmeshed in a web of greed, love, and lust for power. Some people have said that Thomas Shield is not a wholly sympathetic character (I've noticed before this that Andrew Taylor tends to portray his male characters warts and all) but he's certainly sympathetic enough, and working my way through the mystery in his intelligent and perceptive hands felt very comfortable for me. I personally loved it, because I knew it was all working toward the setting up of whatever terrible thing was to come, and I found the character development fascinating in itself.

This is the second book (Fingersmith being the first) in our reading list which appears to have got at least half its ideas from Wilkie Collins. Perhaps if I had never heard of, or never read, Wilkie Collins, I would have enjoyed this book, but since I have heard of him, and The Woman in White, and the Moonstone are favourites of mine, and since The American Boy is (in my opinion) so inferior to either one of these, I found the book irritating in the extreme. Compare and contrast: (The Woman in White) Walter Hartright (music teacher) comes into a house where there are two women, Marion Halcombe and Laura Fairlie. (The American Boy) Tom Shield (tutor) comes into a house where there are two women, Flora Carswall and Sophia Frant. He enjoys a sex-show staged by the manipulative Flora, and appears to have a bonk with Sophie while everyone else is out. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I reached the end of this book and then found I had to waffle through more pages, telling us what a big influence Noddy was (pretentious crap!), what the author had for breakfast and his inside leg measurement. I didn't think this book succeeded either as credible historical fiction or as a murder mystery, and I didn't much enjoy reading it, but that is not to say that I think Taylor is a bad writer.

This is a book of suspense, culture, and murder. I chose this book for the Edgar Allen Poe connection (usually a murder and suspense novel will not make its way off the shelf into my hands) but when I was done the characters were playing on in my mind. At the end of the book (dont peak) there are several appendixes about Edgar Allen Poes life and suspicions.

The story gets told by Thomas Shield whose life changes he gets a position as tutor to the American boy Edgar poe and his best friend Charles.

Over dit boek van Andrew Taylor moet ik eigenlijk geen recensie schrijven maar een heel essay. Wat ik buitengewoon knap vind, is dat Taylor kans heeft gezien dit spannende verhaal neer te zetten met behoud van alle originele details die je ook in de boeken van voornoemde schrijvers vindt, maar met weglating van de soms lange - en ik moet toegeven: soms saaie - stukken die nu eenmaal eigen zijn aan een boek uit die tijd. Het verhaal is geschreven vanuit de hoofdpersoon, Tom Shield, die heel veel dingen meemaakt en ze daarom, zo zegt hij zelf, op een dag maar eens opschrijft. Aangezien Tom Shield hiervoor een handtekening heeft moeten zetten, is dit eigenlijk het begin van het intrigerende verhaal. Dit boek heeft een heleboel extra's: een uitgebreid verhaal over Andrew Taylor en hoe het boek tot stand gekomen is, informatie over Edgar Allen Poe en nog veel meer.

His other novels include The Office of the Dead (2000) and The American Boy (2003), both of which won the Crime Writers Association of Britains Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award, making Taylor the only author to receive the prize twice.