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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd

I saved several books I received from NetGalley in the summer-- awaiting Carl's RIP Challenge.  I'm glad I did because as soon as September hit, I dived headlong into the challenge with enough scary, paranormal, horror type books to keep me involved for a while.

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd is the one I looked forward to the most as I've read all of her books  set in Victorian England and featuring Charles Maddox.  Yet I delayed starting it because of the intense, but subtle undercurrent of threat that accompanies the Charles Maddox series.  I have to be in the right mood to enjoy (or subject myself?) to the melancholic menace Shepherd's writing delivers.  

Charles Maddox isn't an entirely likable protagonist.  As a means of imparting atmospheric stories, however, Charles is a complete success.  Or perhaps I should give credit for that not to Charles, but to the omniscient narrator who respects Charles, but doesn't withhold details that expose his flaws.  

As for the writing style, I have to admit that many readers have a problem with the detail, the lengthy sentences, and the slow revelations.  All true, but the books are creepy and historic, with loads of allusions to Victoriana and the authors and works of the period.  I like this element, but can understand some of the objections to pace.  

The Pierced Heart presents a different version of the Dracula story.  If you've read Bram Stoker's Dracula, you will at once pick up on similarities of characters, descriptions, and style--yet the book is not simply telling the story from another point of view.  It is, rather, the telling the story that might have inspired Bram Stoker to write his fictional version of certain events.  In fact, I kept expecting Stoker himself to appear in the story, grateful for the inspiration and ready to put pen to paper.  At first, I thought that the young man Charles met in the library was Stoker (he did have red hair), but I realized the timing wasn't right, Stoker would have been a toddler in 1851.

If you like Gothic novels, The Pierced Heart fulfills the qualifications for the genre and gives another version of one of the most popular Gothic characters of all time. 

My fourth book for the RIP challenge.

NetGalley/Random House/Bantam Dell

Gothic/Mystery/Historic Fiction.  Oct. 21, 2014.  Print length:  256 pages.


  1. What a terrific review! I am off to add this to my list as we speak.

  2. It's the tie-in to Stoker's Dracula that makes me want to give this book I try. I love the way Bram Stoker wrote and built suspense in that book. I've never read Lynn Shepherd before but she sounds like an author I should get to know. Thanks for the recommendation... and congrats on reaching R.I.P. book #4!

  3. Irene - Not everyone likes Shepherd's style, but I've enjoyed each one of her novels! (The previous one involved the Shelleys, Byron, Claire Claremont; the original case had been Charles' grandfather's, but an elderly Mary Shelley engaged his investigative services.)

    Lark - I'm a sucker for Dracula re-tellings. Another one I like from a few years ago was Renfield: Slave of Dracula.

  4. Shepherd is a writer who has been on my radar ever since her first book came out, but somehow I've never yet picked her up. Is this a good place to start or would you recommend one of her other novels as a better introduction?

  5. Sounds very intriguing! I love reading Gothic novels.

  6. thinkinginfragments - Each book works as a stand alone, but the first one does offer some background. Solitary House, the first one, has a more sordid atmosphere, and I had some problems with the plot. My review.

    Melody - Definitely Gothic and creepy!

  7. A Pierced Heart sounds really good. I don't mind detail and lengthy sentences if it fits with the story being told. It's part of what sets the tone and atmosphere of a book.

  8. Kelly - A good fit for the RIP challenge!

    Wendy - Shepherd uses the Victorian style in her other books as well, but she has a fine grasp on Stoker's descriptions that adds an eery element.

  9. I love a good gothic novel! This is another author that I really want to try but haven't yet. Sounds like a great read!

  10. Samantha - definitely Gothic! Very creepy!