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
SEPTEMBER 4 -- ANDREW TAYLOR:
THE SILENT BOY LAUNCH
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:
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
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
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.