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The American Boy
Andrew Taylor
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The American Boy

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,894 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
Edgar Allan Poe is the American boy, a child standing on the edge of mysteries. In 1819 two Americans arrive in London, and soon afterwards a bank collapses, a man is found dead and mutilated, a heiress flirts with her inferiors, and a schoolmaster struggles to understand what is happening.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published February 1st 2013 by HarperTorch (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jan 31, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: fiona quinn
Shelves: xx-2010-xx
This is a great book. Andrew Taylor really should be more popular. Maybe the fact that he isn't as popular is a compliment? At any rate, plot and characterization were both fantastic here. I was sucked in very quickly, and it definitely has the feel of a 19th century work of fiction, even though it is a modern work.

This man is just a great talent and he continues to impress me. The books I've read of his have a completely different feel, but the writing is undeniably Taylor. Do yourself a favor
I loved this book.

I've read many of the reviews, and while I agree with some of the criticisms (more on that later) I was so thoroughly caught up in this murder mystery set in the pre-Dickensian era that I have to put it on my list of favorites. The atmosphere, the details, the environment was richly rendered, the characters were fully fleshed and three-dimensional, and the mystery was intriguing, properly grisly, intricate and always compelling.

It is about a schoolteacher named Thomas Shield wh
Jul 29, 2013 Zoom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Meh. I found the first half intriguing enough, but the second half bored me. I found it hard to stay connected to the plot and the characters. The more intricate the plot got, the less interested I became. I was tempted to abandon this book, but I'd already invested so much time in it. I don't know why I do this to myself, but I forced myself to finish it.

The only reason I gave it three stars instead of two was because historical fiction requires a considerable degree of competence on the part
Hilary G
Dec 12, 2012 Hilary G rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book.

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.

"An enthrall
Mary Corbal
Muy bien escrito.
This review is one of those times when I would like half stars to be available, as I probably would give it a 4 1/2. I loved the whole Edgar Allan Poe connection, and it was handled with much care and craft. Taylor does so well what sets apart a good read from a great read, layering. He gives you a three-dimensional read, rather than a flat two-dimensional. I look forward to reading more by this engaging author.
Oct 04, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's such a great feeling when you have really enjoyed reading a book and find that there are plenty of other novels by the same author that you can add to your list of books to read.

I enormously enjoyed reading this. I'm not really a fan of historical novels and when I'm in a bookshop I'll usually ignore those that are set in another era. I'm not really sure why, as this is one of a number of historical novels that I have read which have been excellent.

Not having ever read any Poe, I'm sure mu
This is a book of suspense, culture, and murder. It is loosely and brilliantly set around the youth of Edgar Allen Poe. Don’t let that attract or detract you; the book is written in such a way that the fact of Poe causes shadows in your reading that may or may not be true. It adds to the suspense.

An Unpardonable Crime is a looking glass into the culture of old England of the 1800 and 1900’s. There is a fascinating image created as one reads the book. There is high finance, hidden schemes, and un
May 08, 2010 Jeane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Dear Fiona)

The first thing I had to keep in my mind was that The American boy is set in 1800 London. 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.

Things seems to be going finally better in his life, he is respectable and has a job. But his life will complately change for the better but for sure also for the worse the moment he meets Charles and Edgar's family.

The way the story is written, different
Jun 13, 2014 Cliff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad I discovered this book. A thoroughly good mystery wrapped up in a certain amount of fact. I now know how Manor House underground station got its name! I started my working life over looking St. Giles High Street and often walked through Seven Dials. It has only been in more recent years that I have learned the full history of the areas. The author brings the degradation experienced here in the early 19th century fully to life, as he does other aspects of life in late Regency England. The ...more
Book Wormy
Jun 27, 2014 Book Wormy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the early 1800's this is an intriguing murder mystery loosely based around the early life of Edgar Allan Poe his fathers mysterious disappearance and his time spent in England.

While the key facts are true Poes father did disappear and Poe was adopted by the Allans who took him to England the main part of the story is pure fiction.

The American Boy is actually a minor character within the novel however he is the catalyst that brings people together and causes certain events to occur.

The mur
Mar 18, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
It's 1819 and Tom Shield takes a position as a school teacher. There he meets young Charlie Frant and Edgar Allan who is an American boy. Edgar also has the distinction of growing up to be Edgar Allen Poe but for the purposes of this story, he's Charlie's best friend and the unintended catalyst for the mystery. Tom gets drawn into the life and family of Charlie including his mother, Sophie, and father, as well as Sophie's cousin Flora and her father. There is a failure of a bank, a grisly murder ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An atmospheric and entertaining story that is a mixture of crime novel and historical melodrama. Reminds you of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. Twists and turns all the way to the end. Thoroughly enjoyed this - kept me guessing. A great way to pass time during a wet and grey January in England
Todd Stockslager
Borrows heavily from Dickens for settings and culture, borrows heavily from Poe for plotting and pacing. Fun entertainment, too much talking at the end to wrap up loose ends and not enough action. I know it's a novel, folks, but show me, don't tell me. You learn that in Storywriting 101; too many writers forget it.

Purports to be a journal of a just-above-poverty schoolmaster (teacher's aide, basically) aspiring to gentility who gets involved in a plot involving the young Edgar Allan Poe, his mis
Alethea Bothwell
Aug 31, 2014 Alethea Bothwell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a slow-moving BORING book! It did have a plot - quite a complicated one - but until it was all explained in the last several pages, it seemed as though nothing much was going on.

And I kept waiting for Edgar Allen to become an important character.
Feb 16, 2015 AlanandPat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The American Boy is a well written and very enjoyable atmospheric mystery set in the backstreets of London around 1820. We follow the story of Thomas Shield, a schoolmaster, who meets two young boys and through them is introduced to wealthy London banking families. Shield falls for the two available ladies but is held back by lack of money and class, he is not a gentleman. There is a murder and other mysteries and the situation of Mr Shield and the ladies takes many interesting turns.
The story i
Apr 22, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
slightly confusing events in story.
Story not explicit
Slow in places
Very interesting premise for story
good characters
Good relationships between characters
Nothing seems forced.

I like this a lot.
Karen Wellsbury
Another book I read a few months back (I am doing a bit of housekeeping at the moment) and I remember it being quite atmospheric, but didn't really hook me in, I wanted to liken it more than I actually did.
Dec 20, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As well as being a brilliant read I love this author for incorporating Gloucester into his historical novel, a wonderful city, much maligned.
Karin A.
Mar 14, 2016 Karin A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read
Fascinating historical fiction set in 1819 London. Well woven mystery of crime and love, wealth and poverty. The 19th century language lends to the story. I couldn't put this one down. Although Edgar Allen Poe is not a main character, he, as a child, is linked to all that happens in this novel. It is written in a journal style by Tom Shields, a teacher/tutor of a wealthy child and his friend, Edgar Allen. Shields is drawn into the lives of interconnected families. Over time, murders occur and un ...more
Amy Sturgis
I wish I could give this novel a 3.5. The story itself drew me in and kept my interest (a pleasant three stars), but the way it weaves aspects of Edgar Allan Poe's stories into its own -- documented in an ending "Historical Note" that some may wish to read first -- added quite a bit of value for me (definitely four stars).

The American Boy tells the story of a traumatized war veteran turned tutor named Thomas Shield who, in 1819, finds himself at a school just outside London with two special cha
May 24, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, ebooks
This is the first book I've read written by Andrew Taylor. I liked it well enough to look into checking out some of his series mystery and crime novels.
The American Boy is only tangentially about Edgar Allen Poe. It takes the circumstances of his childhood stay in England and some of the mystery surrounding his final days and spins a yarn out from those questions. There is a mystery--or several--at the heart of the story, though, and a very period-appropriate diary format to convey the story fr
Apr 24, 2015 D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling until about three-fourths of the way when it all fell apart and I was just annoyed. In the beginning, the author makes you suspect that Tom is an unreliable narrator with multiple ominous mentions of a lost love, Fanny. You expect that it will be revealed that Tom killed her, or some such fate befell her. But no - the author completely drops her. There is also no mystery, the bad guy is clearly bad throughout the novel, no surprise there. And there were too many characters who are not ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Taylor is a wonderful writer. In a way, you can't "go wrong" with his books. They are meticulously researched and very well thought out. That said, they do move at a very leisurely pace and there is some distance, some lack of passionate engagement with the characters that leaves me a bit dissatisfied. Also, in this book, I felt the title and related "gimmick" were totally unnecessary to my enjoyment or understanding of the book. That seemed weird. However, give him a try. I will read mor ...more
Nov 12, 2014 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Thomas Shield and his Sophie are angels brought to life, more sinned against than sinning. Milton and his creatures of the fallen paradise would be shocked by the audacity of it all! This compensatory literary achievement is offset by the story itself, which is a bit long and bogged down from point to point to, I suppose, suggest the emptiness of wealth and maintaining one's social station despite the hardships involved (i.e., protecting against poachers and storing your venison in an ice house) ...more
2007 thoughts from good old bookcrossing....

I finished reading this book this evening and I really enjoyed it. It is a mystery/thriller, but it's not a fast paced, action packed thing... but it works. Taylor has made such a good job of creating this historical atmosphere, and with the masses of relatively short chapters, he keeps your curiosity going.

I think people picking up the book purely for the Edgar Allen Poe connection will be a bit disappointed. I was a little surprised by how incidental
Jason Webster, writing in Aeon magazine ( argues that detective/mystery fiction arose and gathers adherents in societies that have become secular. The detective becomes one (like a priest or shaman) who makes sense out of existential crises (i.e. murder-how existential can you get?).
Andrew Taylor writes historical fiction/mysteries and does so very well. In The American Boy, the historical part consists of a period of time when the Edgar Allan (Poe) is en
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jul 18, 2011 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Sometimes it is easier to punish the wicked than to defend the innocent.’

The novel opens in England in 1819 where Thomas Shield (our narrator) takes a position as a junior usher at a school near London. Shield is fortunate to obtain the position - he was unable to complete his studies at Cambridge after his father died, he has no reference from his last position, and his brief military career was disastrous.

So, how does such a man become caught up in events which include a bank collapse and a m
The American Boy is a pre-Victorian murder mystery set in 1819-20 but, amazingly, was written in the twenty-first century. It was inspired by the author's interest in the brief period that Edgar Allan Poe spent in England while still a young boy. Building on this real event and some of the real characters, such as Edgar's foster father John Allan and his natural father David Poe, Andrew Taylor spins a mystery out of this moment in the famous author's life. The result is a very satisfying mystery ...more
Apr 20, 2015 Flapper72 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-up
I really wouldn't bother with this book. It was one of my 'free downloads' from a weekend newspaper I think and, frequently, these books are well worth a read. I guess though that, every now and then, there's a reason why it's free. It is meant to be about the darker middle class society in Victorian ages and starts telling the story of a young boy as he's sent away to school. Mother loves him, father seems a bit bizarre, father (or is it the father - who knows) gets murdered and then I gave up! ...more
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Andrew Taylor (b. 1951) is a British author of mysteries. Born in East Anglia, he attended university at Cambridge before getting an MA in library sciences from University College London. His first novel, Caroline Miniscule (1982), a modern-day treasure hunt starring history student William Dougal, began an eight-book series and won Taylor wide critical acclaim. He has written several other thrill ...more
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