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Historical Fiction Review: A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd (Charles Maddox #2)

Egalley thanks to Delacorte Press

Synopsis from Goodreads
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 Shelleys 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.

Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * * 
I'll be honest with you, peeps. Despite struggling with writing style, ultimately I found this book fascinating.

Lynn Shepherd slowly and painstakingly reassembled a fatal love triangle which consisted of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (lately Shelley) and Claire Clairmont. She also reintroduced various mysterious events in Shelley's life and her own very Gothic version of what was happening around him and his women.

I freely admit that I was gobsmacked by A Fatal Likeness' series of events. It's very dark, twisted and convoluted, and it's intricately woven in such a mystery that the reader along with the detective Charles Maddox is forced to stumble alone in the dark, coming to the wrong conclusions again and again until we get to see the final version of the truth.

It's disconcerting, at times horrifying, but half way through the book you find that you are too invested in its characters to stop reading. 

The writing style wasn't my sort of thing only because it varied between the old-fashioned Victorian language and author's own insights into what this or other event or condition would be called in the future. Such interventions were minute but I don't think they were necessary until Author's Notes and Acknowledgements where Lynn explained what she did and how she did it. I know that they kept ruining my immersion into the story.

Did you notice that I haven't said anything about the characters yet? That' because the characters is what totally made the story shine for me. They are creepy and ambiguous and keep you uncertain if you can trust your own judgement... Perhaps the only solid rock in A Fatal Likeness is Charles Maddox, the detective himself, the rest are fluid. This is why I won't tell you anything about them so as not to spoil your own impressions.

Overall, very good, although you might need to push yourself through the first third of the book to truly enjoy the whole thing.

* * *
Я даже не знаю как описать мои впечатления от Рокового Сходства. С одной стороны первую треть книги я читала около двух недель, и мне эту книгу ну очень хотелось бросить. С другой стороны, как только рубикон был перейдён, оторваться я от книги уже не могла, и в целом мои впечатления от неё остались очень хорошими.

Линн Шеферд описала фатальный любовный треугольник между Перси Бише Шелли, Мэри Годвин (позже Шелли) и Клэр Клэрмонт  в таком готичном стиле, что у меня от их жизней и бесчисленных тайн пробегал холодок по коже. Всё это к тому же было искуссно вплетено в сложнейшую детективную историю, которую читатель распутывал вместе с самим детективом, Чарльзом Мэддоксом, также как и Чарльз постоянно ошибаясь в своих оценках в свете всё новых и новых подробностей.

Именно из-за темноты характеров и огромного желания узнать, что же на самом деле произошло, оторваться от Рокового Сходства оказалось невзможным. Я конечно гримасничала от авторского стиля, который чередовал викторианский слог с описаниями самой Линн той или иной точки зрения на события из будущего, которые были совсем неуместны, однако пересилив первую треть книги за 2 недели, я остальные две дочитала за 2 дня, полностью очарованная глубиной и сложностью описанных в книге характеров.

В общем, хоть и с возражениями, но рекомендую. Пищи для размышлений здесь полно.


Blodeuedd said...

Sometimes I can push myself through a not so good beginning, and at other times I can't

Unknown said...

Sounds like a very intricate novel. Victorian language tends to give me the twitches but sometimes, if done well, it adds a charm to the book.

Great review, K.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

definitely sounds interesting, and great cover!!

Melliane said...

It's great that despite the writing style you liked it. I confess I'm intrigued too. I didn't know this one

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Oh despite the issues, you have me so intrigued by the mystery, the darkness and the characters that shine..eep! Wonderful review!

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