A Fatal Likeness
By Lynn Shepherd
(Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 9780345532442, 363pp.)
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS
With The Solitary House, award-winning author Lynn Shepherd introduced readers to Charles Maddox, a brilliant private detective plying his trade on the gaslit streets of Dickensian London. Now, in this mesmerizing new novel of historical suspense, a mystery strikes disturbingly close to home—and draws Maddox into a world of literary legends, tormented souls, and a legacy of terrible secrets.
When his great-uncle, the master detective who schooled him in the science of “thief taking,” is mysteriously stricken, Charles Maddox fears that the old man’s breakdown may be directly related to the latest case he’s been asked to undertake. Summoned to the home of a stuffy nobleman and his imperious wife, Charles finds his investigative services have been engaged by no less than the son of celebrated poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his famed widow, Mary, author of the gothic classic Frankenstein. Approached by a stranger offering to sell a cache of rare papers allegedly belonging to the legendary late poet, the Shelley family seeks Maddox’s aid in discovering whether the precious documents are authentic or merely the work of an opportunistic charlatan.
But the true identity of his quarry is only the first of many surprises lying in wait for the detective. Hardly a conniving criminal, Claire Clairmont is in fact the stepsister of Mary Shelley, and their tortured history of jealousy, obsession, and dark deceit looms large over the affair Maddox must untangle. So, too, does the shadow of the brilliant, eccentric Percy Shelley, who found no rest from the private demons that pursued him. With each new detail unearthed, the investigation grows ever more disturbing. And when shocking evidence of foul play comes to light, Maddox’s chilling hunt for the truth leads him into the blackest reaches of the soul.
Steeped in finely wrought Victorian atmosphere, and rife with eye-opening historical revelations, A Fatal Likeness carries the reader ever deeper into a darkly magnetic tale of love and madness as utterly harrowing and heartbreaking as it is undeniably human.
Praise for A Fatal Likeness
“[Shepherd] takes the familiar story of the Shelley family and fills in the holes in the historical record by turning it into a clever, imaginative and literate mystery.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Unforgettably chilling, A Fatal Likeness will haunt you long after you finish the last page.”—New York Times bestselling author Tasha Alexander
“Maddox’s brooding character and Shepherd’s own voice . . . are both enthralling.”—Booklist
“Charged with passion, betrayals and conspiracies, [A Fatal Likeness] more than restores Shelley’s darker side, yet it is Mary you won’t be able to forget.”—Bloomberg
“Shepherd shines again in this superb Victorian thriller. . . . The novel works equally as a family story, a blend of horror and mystery, and a plausible hypothesis about why so many women and children associated with Shelley died mysterious deaths.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“As a piece of literary detective work, it’s stimulating and hugely fun—even brilliant.”—The Spectator
“A potent mixture of passion, intrigue, perversion, and betrayal, exploring the lives of Shelley, Byron, and their Romantic intimates through a Gothic lens.”—Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham