Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pre-Pub Book Buzz: The White Devil by Justin Evans

So I'm sure my husband will be disappointed, but I've got some fantastic reads in the TBR stack and we're supposed to have nice weather this weekend. I've got some hammock time penciled in for a relaxed reading marathon weekend!

New out this Tuesday is the second book by Justin Evans. A Good and Happy Child, Evans's debut that hit shelves back in 2007, blew me away and was one of my favorite reads of the year. Needless to say, when I saw he had a new release due out this year, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Justin Evans’s chilling and inventive literary thriller,
THE WHITE DEVIL, takes readers inside the rarefied walls of one of England’s most exclusive public schools, where a 200-year-old mystery involving Lord Byron resurfaces to wreak modern-day terror. With this brilliantly-rendered blend of gothic horror, literary mystery, and sexual coming-of-age, Evans deftly fulfills the promise of his widely acclaimed debut, A Good and Happy Child, which critics called “stunning” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), “dazzling” (Chicago Tribune), “beautifully written and perfectly structured” (Washington Post).

Andrew Taylor is an American teenager who should be beginning college back in the States. But bad choices and behavior have led to the withdrawal of his acceptances, so instead he finds himself in England, where his perturbed father has arranged for him to spend a year of atonement at Harrow, the legendary school that has educated Britain’s elite for centuries. As the new boy in the awkward position of entering during the final year—and as an American, to boot—Andrew is swiftly subjected to his classmates’ derision. He manages to make one friend, a South African named Theo Ryder, but soon after they meet, Theo is found dead. The authorities rule the death a natural one, caused by a rare pulmonary ailment, but rumors circulate that Andrew, with his past history of drugs, had something to do with it.

Andrew, in fact, had nothing to do with Theo’s death, but he did have a disturbing vision—witnessing his friend being strangled to death by a strange, white-blond man. Frightened and confused, Andrew at first tells no one what he believes he has seen. Meanwhile, he is recruited to play the lead part of Lord Byron in a new play, commissioned by the school to honor its famed alumnus. The playwright is Andrew’s housemaster, Piers Fawkes, a famous poet whose once brilliant career has fallen to alcoholism and despair. Andrew is recruited for the play by another housemaster’s daughter, Persephone Vine, who is struck by his uncanny resemblance to the Romantic poet.

Pleased to find a niche of acceptance in the stratified caste system of Harrow, Andrew begins rehearsing for the play and engages in a cagey flirtation with Persephone. But happiness is short-lived, as he is haunted by new dreams and visions, tinged with violence and sexual frisson, and all involving this strange blond boy. Andrew finally confides in Fawkes, who also begins to experience eerie sensations. Enlisting the research aid of the school’s archivist, Andrew and Fawkes identify the apparition as John Harness, who has been dead for two hundred years. Harness, they discover, was a scholarship boy who fell under the protection of his fellow student, Byron, and became the future poet’s lover. Fawkes is invigorated by this literary discovery, convinced it will revitalize his career. But more pressing are the jealous horrors that Harness will unleash, pitting Andrew in a fight to save his own life and those at of his compatriots, as well.

Justin Evans, who attended Harrow School for one year, fills THE WHITE DEVIL with letter-perfect details about the peculiar culture of this sequestered society. A masterful storyteller, he once again achieves what Tom Perrotta admired about his first novel, offering “a literary horror story that’s deeply intelligent, beautifully written, and seriously chilling.”

The White Devil officially hits shelves on May 10. A Good and Happy Child is out in paperback.

1 comment:

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

Just finished this one a few hours ago. Loved.it. A good, old fashioned Gothic thriller/horror. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!