“The Harrow School is home to privileged adolescents known as much for their distinctive dress and traditions as for their arrogance and schoolboy cruelty. Seventeen-year-old American Andrew Taylor is enrolled at the esteemed British institution by his father, who hopes that the school’s discipline will put some distance between his son and his troubled past in the States.
But trouble and danger seem to follow Andrew. When one of his schoolmates and friends dies mysteriously of a severe pulmonary illness, Andrew is blamed and is soon an outcast, spurned by nearly all his peers. And there is the pale, strange boy who begins to visit him at night. Either Andrew is losing his mind, or the house legend about his dormitory being haunted by a ghost is true.
When the school’s poet-in-residence, Piers Fawkes, is commissioned to write a play about Byron, one of Harrow’s most famous alumni, he casts Andrew in the title role. Andrew begins to discover uncanny links between himself and the renowned poet. In his lonliness and isolation, Andrew becomes obsessed with Lord Byron’s story and the poet’s status not only as a literary genius and infamous seducer but as a student at the very different Harrow of two centuries prior – a place with violence, squalor, incurable diseases, and tormented love affairs.
When frightening and tragic events from that long-ago past start to recur in Harrow’s present, and when the dark and deadly specter by whom Andrew’s been haunted seems to be all to real, Andrew is forced to solve a two-hundred-year-old literary mystery that threatens the lives of his friends and teachers – and most terrifyingly, his own.”
The White Devil is a beautifully written gothic thriller which relies on suspense and slow building anxiety rather than gore. Andrew is an appealing and sympathetic character, despite his “bad boy” image. Most of the characters were actually appealing to me save Andrew’s love interest Persephone, who I thought was a self-involved one dimensional character. The book definitely gives you the feel for a British boarding school, which may be due to the fact that Justin Evans actually attended Harrows for two years, although he is quick to say in his afterward that the bullying that takes place in the story was not his experience. The majority of the tale is told by Andrew’s point of view which makes it even more chilling as not only is he having to deal with a new school in a different country, but also this horrifying specter which for some reason has fixated on him. In addition you’ve got the historical background of Harrows and Byron, which all together make this a fascinating blend of the horror, historical, thriller, and literary fiction genres. I highly recommend this to lovers of a good ghost story, although you may want to refrain from reading it right before going to sleep!
Reviewed by Kim