Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Review: A Fatal Likeness

A Fatal LikenessAuthor: Lynn Shepherd
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: Charles Maddox # 2

A mystery that explores the dark lives and unexplained secrets of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide.

As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years.

The story of the Shelley’s is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal. In this follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s, Lynn Shepherd offers her own fictional version of that story, which suggests new and shocking answers to mysteries that still persist to this day, and have never yet been fully explained.

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny, and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again.

She smiles. “I do not own the house, and feel a similar degree of detachment from the garden. But if it would amuse you to dig about in the undergrowth, I for one will not prevent you.”

“You see,” she says to her husband, who seems from his stance to have entered the room only a few moments ago, “it is all as I told you it would be. We had only to wait, and an opportunity would present itself. And so it has. So it has.”

I  do not remember, now, what first led us to talk of ghosts.

Our leading man, Charles Maddox, is back. And this time he is summoned by the only surviving son of Mary Shelley, named Percy after his father. He is called upon because the Shelley family is missing some very important papers concerning the late Shelley that they are in desperate need of and must have back in their possession. These papers could be used for blackmail and would quite possibly ruin the reputation that the Shelley’s have established. Charles gets more than he is bargaining for on this case, and goes into it blindsided. He finds himself caught up in a tangled webs of lies, deceit, and murder. Readers are sure to see a side of the Romantics that they are either unfamiliar with or completely and utterly shocked by; I know I was!

Being an English major and English teacher, I have done my fair study and read my fair share of work by many authors known as part of the group we label, The Romantics. However, I think our author, Lynn Shepherd, has done MORE than her fair share of study on the lives of the Romantics, and more specifically Percy and Mary Shelley. This book made me want to do more research and study about their lives and the relationships they got themselves involved in. I actually went to the library and checkout out a few non-fiction books involving both Percy and Mary. I do not know if Shepherd does not like the Shelley’s, but I got that feeling after reading. However, her depiction of them was completely believable, whether true or not I do not know, but she convinced me to read more on their lives. I think that makes for a successful author!

Just like the Romantics and their lives, Shepherd’s writing was dark and reflected the period and the movement. I always have to get my students to understand that just because they are called “romantic” does not mean it will be a mushy gushy love poem full of boring clich├ęs! Shepherd’s writing style was beautiful and completely poetic, in the sense of the Romantic writers themselves. The only thing that I did not like about this book was the depiction of the Shelley’s, true or not. When you are a literary like me, who happens to love Frankenstein, you get this idea in your head of who you perceive the author to be and what you think they are like. No matter what, you don’t want anything to change that. It’s almost like a young girl looking up to a certain performer or actress, and then learning that they are completely ruthless and a jerk. However, this does not change the fact that Shepherd is an excellent writer and spins a dark and twisted tale that took me no time at all to finish!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte Press in exchange for my honest review***

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