The No. 1 bestseller and award-winning Richard & Judy Book Club pick. An atmospheric and deeply absorbing literary historical crime classic – featured in The Times ‘Top Ten Crime Novels of the Decade'.
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?
In late Regency London, a young American boy by the name of Edgar Allan Poe is taught at a private school by a popular tutor, one Thomas Shield, who fought at Waterloo. It is not long before Shield is drawn into the world of Poe's family and, more particularly, that of his young friend Charles. But no sooner do these promising social doors open for Shield than a hideous murder is committed, a bank collapses, leaving misery in its wake, and Shield is battling to find the truth before a whole array of labyrinthine dealings, betrayals and secrets drag him into the mire. Confusing the issue are his feelings for a beautiful widow and for the flirtatious bastard daughter of a self-made man who has the power to make or break him. The truth, though, has its origins way across the Atlantic. Post-Waterloo England is brought brilliantly to life in this spellbinding novel by one of crime writing's greatest talents, with twists and turns to outwit the most dogged intellect. Marvellously clever plotting and brilliantly created atmospherics lure the reader into this multi-layered story, which expertly cranks up the tension while revealing plenty about the human psyche. Writing in the authoritative voice of 19th-century England, Taylor sets his action in two spheres - a fetid, malevolent London and the gloomy rigidity of a Gloucestershire country estate, both of which are bound by class barriers that can only be vaulted over with money. Taylor's award-winning novels, including The Office of the Dead from the Roth trilogy and Where Roses Fade from the Lydmouth series, have been topped by this immensely satisfying literary thriller. Highly recommended. (Kirkus UK)