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Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness is the second historical detective/mystery novel by Shepherd.  The Solitary House introduced Charles Maddox and his famous great-uncle Maddox, a legendary detective/thief taker, whose reputation meant he was consulted by the wealthy and connected of London.

As I mentioned in my review of The Solitary House, the style and atmosphere of the novel is quite Victorian/Dickensian,  and the style is  still evident in A Fatal Likeness, but perhaps a little less so.

In The Solitary House, Great-uncle Maddox has been stricken with an Alzheimer-like dementia.  Evidently, some improvement has occurred since then, but when a note is delivered from a client, the old man's condition worsens dramatically.

Charles decides to visit the client who turns out to be an ill and aging Mary Shelley, represented by her son and daughter-in-law.

Intrigued and uneasy, Charles learns that his Great-uncle Maddox had worked a case for the William Godwin, Mary's father, some 30 years previously.  Going through his great-uncle's casebook leaves Charles wondering about many things, including missing pages and what the Shelley's really want to accomplish with the investigation.

Charles is more likable in this novel, but the main interest in A Fatal Likeness is the web-like plot developing around Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Clair Claremont.  Great-uncle Maddox's involvement in the earlier case will be somewhat unraveled as Charles pursues the current case.

Much of the plot is based on incidents and letters, etc. concerning the convoluted relationships of Percy, Mary, Clair, and Byron in real life and are easily documented.  With artistic license, Shepherd fills in the gaps and elaborates on possibilities, but much of the information is factual.

What a strange, intelligent, creative group of individuals managed to whirl themselves together in a motley conglomeration of relationships.  Entanglements are like a labyrinth of dark corners and dead ends.  Cruelties intended and inadvertent, jealousies, and egos abound.

NetGalley/Random House, Delacourt.

Historical Fiction/Mystery.  Aug. 20, 2013.  Print Version:  384 pages.


  1. I'm excited to try this series, which I didn't fully realize until just now was a series. It sounds right up my street -- I love the Victorians so much.

  2. A lot of this one takes place in an earlier setting with the Romantic poets, but Charles is definitely a Victorian. I liked this one better than the first in the series, but Shepherd is really good with creating atmosphere in the first one.

  3. This is a series that's definitely going on my list!