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An Unpardonable Crime

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3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  2,171 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
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. Drawn to Frant's beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes caught up in her family's twisted intrigues. Then a brutal crime is committed, with consequences that threaten to destroy Thomas and all that he has come to ...more
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Published March 1st 2005 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 2003)
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Susan Strobel This book is available through second hand book stores. I doubt you will find it available as an e-book. I ordered my copy through a secondary source.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Laura
Jan 07, 2009 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
...more
Heidi
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
...more
Zoom
Jul 01, 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
...more
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
...more
Jeane
Sep 13, 2009 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
...more
Kathy
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.
Mary Corbal
Muy bien escrito.
Tony
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
...more
David
Sep 05, 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
...more
Candy Wood
Though there are no police detectives, this is a murder mystery. The narrator, Thomas Shield, was at Waterloo in 1815 and is trying to get his life back on track by teaching in a Stoke Newington school for boys. One of his pupils is Edgar Allan, son of an actor and con man named David Poe, but the father is a more important character here than the ten-year-old future writer. The British title, The American Boy, is misleading. Mr. Shield experiences the extremes of London, from the dangerous slum ...more
Sue
Jan 16, 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
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.
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.
Sarah
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.
Julie
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.
Debs Carey
If I'd read the book without knowing the title, I'd probably have had a higher opinion of it. For it's certainly pacy and action-packed. But the fact that Edgar Allan Poe appears in it as a minor character is simply too tenuous, in my opinion. In the Epilogue, the author makes the case for his statement that the boy is a fulcrum, but I think the case shouldn't need to be made, if it was a good one.

Americans certainly feature more than one expect in a tale based (largely) in London during this pa
...more
Beccy
Nov 23, 2016 Beccy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Taylor is a writer that I will look out for again after reading this book. Set in Regency London in the 1800s it's interesting both historically and culturally with an atmospheric, gripping narrative.
Diana
Jan 16, 2017 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Shield has a teaching position at a private school near London. Through a change in circumstances, he is hired as a tutor for young boy named Charles and his American friend, Edgar. Thomas becomes enmeshed in a tangle of deceit, crimes, and murder by wealthy and unscrupulous businessmen. Through no fault of his own, his reputation is discredited and he must find a different job to survive. Thomas tries to establish who the victims were; why and how they died. The boy, Edgar Allen, became ...more
Sydney Scott
I really struggled with this book. It was intriguing enough for me to keep going but I found it quite slow.
Tom
Jason Webster, writing in Aeon magazine (http://www.aeonmagazine.com/altered-s...) 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
...more
Don
Nov 08, 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
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
...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
...more
James
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
Tricia Riley
Although Edgar Allan Poe is "The American Boy", he is actually a fairly minor (but important) character. That aside, this is a book full of intrigue and I really enjoyed it.

The book is narrated from the point of view of Mr Shields, an ex-soldier who obtains a position as an usher at boys school (where he meets a young Edgar Allan Poe). One of the other students is a boy named Frant, and it is mostly his family that the story is set around.

By a quarter of the way through the Frant family is prett
...more
D
Feb 19, 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
Cliff
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
Vermillion
Jul 09, 2016 Vermillion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: goths
Shelves: fiction
Despite the promising blurb on the back of the book, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. The setting is interesting; late Regency London in both the posh districts and the dirty underbelly of St Giles. The characters, setting and the language of the early 19th century are all beautifully rendered, and the initial plot is exciting. But when the cast of characters move to rural Gloucestershire, the pace slows down to a snail's crawl. It might be that it was necessary to put in every tin ...more
Ape
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
...more
Diane
Mar 07, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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