10 January 2011

The White Devil; Justin Evans

The White Devil: A NovelThe White Devil: A Novel by Justin Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I really want the "half-star" option - this deserves a 4.5. Why? Because when a book makes you want to learn more about the source material, that's a good book.

Set at Harrow in the modern day, Andrew is a fish-out-of-water American sent for a "gap year" (aka "an opportunity to clean up your record") by his father. While trying to figure out the social hierarchy and Harrovian slang, he witnesses what he thinks is a murder - except the doctors say it's natural causes and the murderer simply disappears. What follows is the story of a haunting of both Harrow and Andrew by the ghost of Byron's (he of "mad, bad and dangerous to know" fame, except in this instance it's "deadly to know") former lover. I wanted to learn more about Byron, and Harrow (why did I think it was further away from London?). The author's sense of American class distinctions and the way in which language plays into class is spot on.

Like last year's Revolution, The White Devil is one of those time-travel mysteries, with ghost sightings, an alcoholic "beak", TB and a 20+-sided essay all culminating in what some may think of as an unsatisfactory ending. The epilogue was unnecessary, which is one of the reasons for the 4.5 rating.

ARC provided by publisher.

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