The White Devil
Harper, May 10 2011, $24.99
Due to heroin use, seventeen years old Andrew Taylor is expelled from elite Frederick Williams Academy, a Connecticut prep school catering to the affluent. His father provides an exorbitant gift to Harrow in England, which gets Andrew into the school. Andrew is excited over one thing, the Housemaster Sir Alan Vine’s daughter Persephone.
Andrew is at a nearby cemetery on Harrow-on-the-Hill when he witnesses the murder of a student Theo Ryder who resided in the rundown haunted Lot dorm. The culprit is a gaunt skeletal person wearing a very old style frock coat. Feeling ill Andrew suffers from nightmares. He also learns that an emaciated person looking like the killer appeared in a performance of John Webster's The White Devil at Harrow in 1803. At the same time, he struggles with what his senses imply; Andrew plays Byron in acrimonious alcoholic housemaster Piers Fawkes’s play because the American looks like the late romantic era poet. However, the American exiled teen begins to assimilate Byron's exotic life while tuberculosis spreads amidst those at the school and the bizarre takes control of Andrew’s section of Harrow.
The connection between the modern day and the romantic period is clever as Byron’s “true” love ties the American with the late poet in this harrowing haunted school story. Although requiring a leap of faith over Big Ben as too many of the cast easily accepts the existence of a ghost, readers will enjoy this spooky fast-paced tale of an American attending Harrow.