The White Devil, by Justin Evans begins with Andrew Taylor attending the exclusive British boarding school, Harrow. Andrew has a hard time of it when boys at the school, all focused on studying for their A-levels, are suspicious of his background and the rumors surrounding his repetition of senior year at their school. Matters worsen when Andrew’s only friend dies in mysterious circumstances on the heels of Andrew’s arrival. Andrew, who discovers the body, is too afraid of what he has seen to come forward, but his silence comes at a price when what he prefers to believe he imagined his begins to prey upon his classmates.
As soon as I settled down with this amalgam of horror, literary fiction, mystery and history, I knew that I was going to love it, and I did. Evans’ writing is both rich and engaging as he weaves this truly creepy tale of boarding school woes, bullying, and love that refuses to die. The presence in this story is frighteningly clever invention, combining supernatural and scientific elements into its skin crawling whodunnit and howdunnit, focusing on the present day but delving into the Harrow of Lord Byron’s time through Andrew’s research into the horror spreading through the school.
In addition to Andrew’s investigation into the death of his friend, he is also struggling with his part in the tragedy that sent him to Harrow in the first place. When making new connections prove problematic, he relies heavily on the friendships he forms with the troubled dorm master, and the eccentric daughter of the school’s headmaster. The two have a complex relationship with each other as well as their new and complex relationship with Andrew. The characterizations of each escapes caricature through Evans’ detailed rendering of their lives.
Evans’ ghost story plot is enhanced by Byron’s history with Harrow, details of the school’s less than posh beginnings, and clashes between the have and have-nots in Lord Byron’s time there. This clever and engaging mystery will delight fans of horror, history and mystery. Highly recommended.
For more on Justin Evan, The White Devil and Lord Byron visit What’s Old Is New for an interview with Justin Evans.