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When the celebrated novelist Andrew Taylor unveils a new thriller, it is always an event to remember - and so, naturally, we're thrilled he has chosen his local bookshop once again (The Forest Bookshop) to launch his new gripping historical story, The Silent Boy. PRE-ORDER A SIGNED COPY HERE



Come along and enjoy a glass of wine or juice and some nibbles and toast Andrew Taylor's epic new novel, published in hardback for £16.99 by HarperCollins. The author, described by The Times as "the most consummate writer of historical fiction today", will read from the book and sign copies. The event is at 6.30pm. All welcome.

Here's a review from your friendly Forest Bookshop... we were lucky enough to get an advance copy:

Silent Boy'Children should be seen and not heard', the old saying goes - a licence for repression if ever there was one. Though associated with the Victorian era, the phrase dates back to the Middle Ages, and would likely have been in use in 1792.

However, a child who will not speak even when urged by his or her elders is potentially licence for unmitigated cruelty, as the victim can't or won't voice objections. It seems nothing enrages a disciplinarian more than a child who has the physical capacity to speak but not seemingly the mental capacity. The reader, however, has the privilege of knowing the mantra repeating in the head of poor Charles: "Say nothing. Not a word to anyone. Whatever you see. Whatever you hear. Do you understand? Say nothing. Ever."

Taylor's new novel utilises two of the characters from his last book, The Scent of Death. In 1778, London clerk Edward Savill was obliged to turn detective in the desperate last days of British colonial New York, posted there by his patron Mr Rampton, his wife Augusta's uncle.

Now, 14 years later, Savill's estranged wife has apparently been murdered in the midst of the post-revolution Terrors which splattered guillotine-riddled Paris with torrents of blood in 1792.

But a murder mystery isn't the thrust of this story - rather, it concerns a child custody battle involving, on one side, Charles's claimed aristocratic father, holed up in a 'Somersetshire' mansion to which he and his Parisian retinue have fled with the child, versus Savill acting on behalf of Rampton and also Savill's daughter -- Charles's half-sister. Somewhere in the middle is a vicar and his daughter, and a mystery man in a blue coat.

What is a mystery are the protagonists' motives for wanting custody of Charles -- it certainly doesn't appear many of them have the child's interests at heart. Yet while the boy himself is neglected in a draughty bedroom and picked on by servants, a tug o' war over his future is fought in the drawing room. In the process, faith in humanity in general is alternately shaken and reaffirmed.

Taylor could have set this story of a solitary bastard child lurching from crisis to crisis in the grip of manipulative and uncaring adults in the present day -- but slow, inexorable chaise chases make much more interesting telling than a high-speed motorway dash. There are far less chances of letters reaching the mailcoach, let alone their destination, as there are of emails and text messages reaching an inbox. Plus, with the police only an embryonic concept and social services non-existent, there are no agencies ready to step in and bring the tale to a premature conclusion.

What sets The Silent Boy apart from other thrillers, and historical fiction, is the insidious way Taylor lulls readers into suspicions, perceptions and prejudices. This sense of mistrust may well have been ubiquitous in the wake of the French Revolution, when any hint of atheism and republicanism freaked out the British establishment, terrified their time might be up as the revolution and its terrible retribution spread from the Continent...

With more twists than a turnpike road, there's a surprise around every corner as well as agonising suspense. So edge of the seat is The Silent Boy, I read it compulsively in two sittings.


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