Book Review: ‘The White Devil: A Ghost Story’ by Justin Evans

Posted: 2 November 2013 in Book reviews
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Love is a feeling that most people have felt in varying degrees.  In the beginning it starts as a tiny warmth in your stomach, the pounding of the heart when the person is near, and sometimes loss of rational thinking.  If the affections are reciprocated, this love can evolve from a mere ‘crush’ or the less desirable ‘lust’, to something more concrete.  You think of them often, talk all the time, crave being around each other, miss each other when they aren’t there, etc.  This progression is healthy.  If not kept in check though, the progression can escalate rapidly in the beginning and later turn into obsession linked with jealousy and being controlling/dominating/abusive.  This is not healthy.  This can sometimes lead you down a road you cannot return from.  Enter ‘The White Devil.’



‘The White Devil’ is the second book by Justin Evans.  While not to be mistaken for the 17th century play by John Webster (which does play a role later in the story), this tragic tale revolves around the haunting of an American student exiled to Harrow School, a prestigious, all boys school in north-west London.

Andrew Taylor has been sent to Harrow School as a last attempt to straighten him out.  He had been expelled from his previous school for using heroin (his housemate nearly died) and had only gotten in to Harrow from his father making a sizeable donation.  This was Andrew’s last chance or else his father would disown him.  Despite his being secretive about why he was there, it was eventually revealed after the death of a student.

Andrew was walking back to the school through a churchyard when he stumbles upon an odd scene.  He sees a scarily thin, pale guy on top of another guy.  My first reaction was a little confusion until it is revealed that the guy on top is killing the other guy.  He turns to run, but is brought back because he realises the person being killed is a Harrow student.  When he turns back around, he finds to killer gone, as if he vanished into thin air (there was only one way he could have gone, which was passed Andrew), and discovers the victim as one of his friends Theo Ryder.  He was one of the few people nice to Andrew and it was a major blow.

This was only the beginning of the descent.  Andrew unknowingly had a striking resemblance to Lord Byron, poet and graduate of Harrow School.  Andrew’s headmaster was commissioned to write a play about Byron, and once Persephone (daughter of another headmaster and later love interest of Andrew’s) introduces Andrew to him, he is cast as the lead.  Andrew then starts to have dreams where he interacts with a pale, blonde-haired boy.  In the dreams, there appears to be some sort of relationship between the two boys as the feel more like premonitions or memories than mere dreams.

Life is all around ugly for Andrew.  People at the school blame him for Theo’s death (despite knowing it was an illness, not drugs), he has a tumultuous relationship with Persephone (which is also the high point of his life), his headmaster is using his struggles as a means to get the play published rather than help resolve it (which Andrew seems oddly ok with), the inability to talk to his parents about anything (it would have only made the situation worse) and he finally learns who the boy is and that he was once the lover of Lord Byron (which explains why he is having the ‘dreams’ and actually seeing the boy).  As he researches the boy, he finds that the boy was not only in love with Byron, but obsessed, insanely jealous of whoever he spent time with.  This is why Theo was killed, then why Roddy (another friend) and also Persephone are brought to the verge of death from tuberculosis (what the boy died from).

Time is short and they need to find a way to exorcise the ghost before Roddy and Persephone die.  They decide to confront the ghost about who he killed as it seems he is confused at their identity (he thought he was killing a rival).  It seems logical, but when dealing with the supernatural, sometimes words do not work where action can only be used.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book when I started it.  It seemed very pretentious in a way.  Here is this American boy at an English school and so many stereotypes were brought up that I caught myself being defensive.  Once I got passed the awkwardness associated with that, I really enjoyed the book.  I found myself really liking Andrew and feeling sorry for him with all he had to endure.

Andrew is the main character.  He is very well described as the lonely screw up that everyone avoids.  He questions himself constantly (such as his sexuality because of the ghost), but as the story progresses, his resolve gets stronger and he doesn’t waver from what needs to be done.  He is a great character.

He has varying relationships with Theo (friend), Roddy (friend), Persephone (love interest), Piers (the housemaster) and Dr. Kahn (an archivist).  I found it interesting how almost all the relationships were not straight forward.  They tolerated him for whatever reason until finally realising they were actually friends. Theo was probably the only one that genuinely seemed to like him from the beginning.  I like how there was conflict between the characters and that they weren’t instant best friends.  I even liked the volatile relationship between Andrew and Persephone.  It wasn’t too ridiculous and showed how much teenagers overreact.  They each had different character voices and were wonderfully thought out.

The book was well written and the story was very fluid.  I loved the historical element to it.  Naturally the relationship between Bryon and the ghost was fictional, but it was based off of a factual relationship (I did some research of my own).  It was very well developed and I found myself wanting to continue reading it despite needing to go to bed.  My only issue was that at times thoughts were interjecting into sentences that sometimes threw me off.  It got confusing at times cause they weren’t expected.  Those happen more towards the end of the book though.

I have high praise for the book and highly recommend it.  It is not gory or overly graphic, but it does have some adult elements of it so I suggest reading it before you let younger teenagers read it (if you feel the need to monitor content).  It is a creepy story based off of undying obsession and jealousy.  Enjoy 😉

To buy on Amazon

To buy on Barnes and Noble


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