The White Devil
by Justin Evans
Review by Steve Sawicki
Harper Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061728273
Date: 10 May 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Andrew Taylor is on his last chance. After getting into trouble at school in America--trouble involving drugs and the death of a friend--he finds himself sent off to Harrow, the legendary British school that has graduated students of distinction for centuries. Right off Taylor does not fit in. His housemaster, a drunk poet struggling to recapture past promise, wants little to do with him, at least, that is, until he notices a striking resemblance to a former harrow graduate, Lord Byron.
But it gets worse, Taylor is not trusted by the other boys at the school with the exception of one. And that one is soon found dead in a cemetery--by Taylor, who tells no one of the strange white haired apparition he saw strangling the boy. Soon Taylor is knee deep in a vengeful ghost and a mystery that threatens to kill everyone he knows as well as himself. What secrets has Harrow hidden over all that time? Taylor needs to find out and he's not got a lot of time to do so.
Justin Evans does a good job of mixing horror with mystery with history in this novel that is as much mystery as ghost story. The characters are all driven by their own motivations and apt to work against the action of the plot as often as they act towards it. This lends itself to a rich, tapestry of a novel that bobs and weaves from setting to setting and from motivation to motivation. There are no few surprises involved and you're likely to learn more than you think you would about the life of Lord Byron in the process.
When I first cracked open the novel I was not sure I was going to manage to get through to the end. Ghost stories are not my main cup of tea, nor are they even on the short list. But, as I have said before and elsewhere, good writing draws you in regardless of the subject. And so I soon found myself mired deeply in the story of Andrew Taylor and his discoveries at Harrow. Much more deeply than I would have admitted at the beginning. Good writing will out and Evans is a good writer.
I would definitely recommend this book to those of you looking for a good ghost story or a good mystery with some supernatural overtones. And, if you like a bit of history mixed in with either of those then this is a sure winner.