January 10, 2013
A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd
A Treacherous Likeness is a gripping story of passion and betrayal based on the lives of the elusive and volatile poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and their entourage. Totally compulsive, this dark tale weaves its way through a web of deceit seeking out their secrets, desires and complex relationships.
When private detective Charles Maddox is asked to investigate some of the family’s missing papers by the insipid Sir Percy Shelley and his overbearing wife Jane, little does he know that the trail will lead him into the murky depths of the poet’s past. In his pursuit of the truth, he encounters unexplained deaths, madness and deception. Before long he falls under the spell of the captivating Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s step-sister, and risks losing his footing as he is drawn into the powerful emotions and manipulations of this unusual family and their desperate attempts to preserve Shelley’s legacy.
The plot is fast paced with layers of intrigue as Charles plunges into the horrors of the family’s shameful secrets that are revealed through the twists and turns of this compelling narrative. Letters, diaries and poetry support the plot adding variety and depth to the story. Vivid flashbacks expose the characters’ lives and shed light on their shadowy past. The tension leads to an explosive and completely unexpected ending worthy of the Gothic tradition.
A Treacherous Likeness is beautifully written with evocative and colourful descriptions of mid-Victorian London. Lynn Shepherd skilfully recreates the detail and atmosphere of the setting and brings these extraordinary historical characters back to life. A lighter touch and humour contrast with the darkness of the unfolding story as the narrator gently guides the reader through the labyrinth of lies and hidden histories.
This is the second investigation by the younger Charles Maddox and in this story his character is explored on a deeper level revealing his insecurities, his weaknesses and the ghosts of the past that haunt him still. A skilled and experienced detective, Charles is insightful, sharp-witted and loves the thrill of the chase. However in his personal life he is often maddeningly unaware of those around him, especially the plight of his young housekeeper, Molly. His relationship with the aging and increasingly fragile Charles Maddox senior, legendary thief-taker, is deeply moving. As the investigation progresses, Charles realises with horror that his great-uncle is enmeshed right at the heart of the mystery.
This is a captivating and powerful novel that succeeds in breathing new life into these enigmatic characters with their shifting allegiances and destructive emotions. Lynn Shepherd is a consummate storyteller and her unique style makes her work refreshingly different and deeply satisfying to read.
I would highly recommend A Treacherous Likeness: I am a huge fan of Charles Maddox and I hope that there are many more adventures with him to come.
A Treacherous Likeness is to be published by Corsair on 7 Feb 2013
Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy.