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The American Boy    by Andrew Taylor order for
American Boy
by Andrew Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Flamingo, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Thomas Shield, a penniless schoolteacher in 1819 England, is caught in intrigue, scandal, the theft of thousands and thousands of pounds, murder, and the downfall of a respected bank. He becomes embroiled in the lives of wealthy people in his role as schoolmaster to young boys. The young Edgar Allen Poe is one of those young boys. He and his friend Charlie Frant welcome Shield's attentions. This leads him to occasionally become a part of the Frant household, where he realizes that all is not as is presented to the world.

The novel, from Shield's perspective, reads as though written in 1819. It's a compelling story that moves on at a brisk clip, with unpredictable action. Suspense builds subtly as Shield moves through the teeming streets of London. Andrew Taylor is a master storyteller with many books to his credit. His masterful depiction of the England of that period makes the reader feel like an observer of the action. The clothes, the food, the conveyances, the grinding poverty that pervades the book, all seem as real as though it happened today. Taylor's use of the language of the age only serves to add authenticity to an engrossing tale that I found very hard to put down. I enjoyed the characters that took life from the author's descriptions. I liked the ones I was meant to like and was suspicious of those who deserved to be viewed with suspicion. Taylor paints wonderful word pictures that kept my eyes moving for more.

I've always enjoyed history and An American Boy satisfied my old urges to learn more about what went before me. And I enjoyed a wonderfully suspenseful mystery as a bonus.

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