Winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger
Richard and Judy Book Club
Shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
In the US, winner of The Audie in the Literary Fiction category.
A BookSense Summer Paperback Pick
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 horribly mutilated on a building site. An heiress flirts with her inferiors. A poor schoolmaster struggles to understand what is happening before it destroys him and those he loves.
But the truth, like the youthful Poe himself, has its origins in the new world as well as the old. Buried deep in the novel's core is a bitter episode of corruption and divided loyalties during the War of 1812, the inconclusive struggle between the newly independent United States and the world's one global superpower.
The American Boy is a 21st-century novel with a 19th-century voice. It is a a multilayered literary murder story which is also a historical novel and a love story. Its settings range from the coal-scented fogs of late Regency London to the stark winter landscapes of rural Gloucestershire. And at its centre is a boy who never learns the significance of the part he plays - until perhaps right at the end.
The novel consists principally of the narrative of Thomas Shield, an impoverished schoolmaster with a chequered past that includes a brief but disastrous military career and history of mental instability. At the heart of his story is Wavenhoe's Bank and the families concerned with its fortunes and misfortunes. But some of those most deeply involved come from further afield: Mr Noak from Boston, the Negro Salutation Harmwell from Upper Canada, and Edgar Allan Poe himself, the boy on the margins of other people's histories.