The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor

the-silent-boyBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: HarperCollins, 2014
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 424 pages; 25 cm
  • Interest Level:  AD
  • Summary: Paris, 1792. Terror reigns as the city writhes in the grip of revolution. The streets run with blood as thousands lose their heads to the guillotine. Edward Savill, working in London as agent for a wealthy American, receives word that his estranged wife Augusta has been killed in France. She leaves behind ten-year-old Charles, who is brought to England to Charnwood Court, a house in the country leased by a group of migrant refugees.  And only when Savill arrives there does he discover that Charles is mute. The boy has witnessed horrors beyond his years, but what terrible secret haunts him so deeply that he is unable to utter a word?  Retrieved from https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780007506606/the-silent-boy
  • ISBN: 978-0-00-813135-7
  • Subjects:
    • History – Fiction
    • Mystery – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: I can not speak, can not tell them what I saw.  I can only run and run until I find someplace without so much blood.

Plot Summary:  In his second book, featuring Edward Savill, Taylor tells the story of Edward’s wife and the child she had by another man.  After she is murdered violently in front of her son, the traumatized child is taken to England by other refugees from the violence of the French revolution.  His wife had lead several men to believe they were the child’s father and one of them is struggling to keep him.  Edward, initially working with his ex-wife’s father, is the legal guardian of the child since the two were still married when the child was born.  But things are not as simple as they appear.  He had thought his wife had been merely unfaithful but, as he learns more about her, he realizes she was working for the British government possibly as a spy.  Moreover, the story of her son and her subsequent death, have a twisted dark reality that he knew nothing about.  To save himself and the boy he must find the truth.

Critical Evaluation:  I have always loved a good historical novel and if it happens to be a mystery, that’s even better.  Having read the first book by Taylor featuring Savill, I hoped The Silent Boy would be as good; I was not disappointed.  Taylor has created a hero in Savill who is better than his times.  He is a good man, who faced with the very real evidence of his estranged wife’s betrayal in the form of her orphaned son, only sees a frightened child and his daughter’s half-brother.  When pressured by his father-in-law to give the child to him, Edward stands firm, determined not to make a decision that would not be in the child’s best interest.  Taylor has accomplished something that many writers of history fail to do; create a character that reveals a little known feature of history in the form of a man who is a true humanitarian.  Humanism was a critical aspect of the period of European and American history that lead to the creation of the United States and to the French Revolution.  Edward is a very human person, with all the flaws and strengths associated with being human but he works on his flaws and struggles to both know and do the right thing.  The rest of the characters are equally well thought out and constructed, in particular the villain of the piece who is ultimately responsible for all the evils of the story and a thoroughly rotten person.  Overall, this is a story of a man who faced with tragedy demonstrates what it means to be a good person without being a caricature of one.  The book is well written and compelling, and should appeal to anyone regardless of their interest in history.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Andrew Taylor has been a full-time writer since 1981, and has written over twenty books. He has been described by The Times as ‘One of Britain’s best writers of psychological suspense.’

Having decided to become a writer at the age of ten, he claims that it was his newly recognized facility for writing stories, teamed with the idea that a writer’s life consisted of not wearing a tie to work, that first attracted him to the career. ‘Another thing I like about crime fiction’ he asserts, ‘is its lack of pretension. It sets out to entertain – it’s fiction with its sleeves rolled up.’  In the years preceding Andrew Taylor’s breakthrough in the literary world, he worked as a boat-builder, wages clerk, teacher, librarian, labourer and freelance publisher’s editor. Since then, Public Lending Right estimates place his British public library readership in the top one per cent.

His novels include the Dougal and Lydmouth crime series, the psychological thriller The Barred Window and his ground-breaking Roth Trilogy, now published in one volume as Requiem for an Angel. He also reviews and writes about crime fiction, particularly in the Independent. Awards received for his books include the John Creasey Memorial award from the Crime Writer’s Association and an Edgar Scroll from the Mystery Writers of America, both for Caroline Minuscule, and the CWA’s Ellis Peters Historical Dagger. The Roth Trilogy was adapted into acclaimed ITV drama Fallen Angel. The American Boy was a 2005 Richard & Judy Book Club choice.

He lives in the Forest of Dean with his wife, a photographer, and their two children.  Retrieved from https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/cr-109951/andrew-taylor-1

Genre Designation:  Mystery

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • American History
  • French History
  • English History

Book Talk Ideas:  What was the most frightening experience you’ve ever had?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  I love historical mystery books, if they are well written and this one was.

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