I picked up this book thinking, oh, a Richard & Judy recommendation. It’s probably very good, but the fact that they recommended it is enough to turn me off. But I decided that that was a silly prejudice and bought the book anyway. And I’m glad I did!
The premise is, that it is 1819 and the 11-year-old Edgar Allen (Poe) has been taken to London by his foster parents. While his father conducts business, Edgar is sent to a boarding school for boys in Stoke Newington. While there, he makes friends with a boy, Charles Frant, who closely resembles him in manner and features. This connection becomes a catalyst for a horrible crime and although young Edgar is not a major part of the proceedings, he is there in the background.
The story is told through the eyes of a teacher at the school, Thomas Shield, who is fascinated with Charles’ mother. He becomes part of the horror that strikes at the Frant family and also the unwitting detective who pieces the lies, secrets and betrayal together to solve the crime at the centre. There is lots of period detail, but it never overwhelms the story, which has plenty of twists and turns. I really could not put this book down and I sat up until 3 o’clock in the morning to finish it. I just could not go to sleep until I had finished it!
Someone should make a movie of it, they really should. Especially with the fascination in the UK for TV series’ set in that time. (And it was funny to think that while Edgar Allen Poe was a schoolboy in England, my little cottage in Wales was being built!)