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Tom-All-Alone's (Charles Maddox 2) Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780331665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780331669
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 789,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write what I like to call 'literary mysteries'. In other words one part literary fiction to one part mystery, and each time inspired either by a classic book, or - in the case of my new novel - the lives of famous literary figures.

I started with Murder at Mansfield Park, which was 'Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie', then I moved to Charles Dickens with Tom-All-Alone's (UK)/The Solitary House (North America). That was inspired by Bleak House as my birthday present on his bicentenary.

My latest book takes as its inspiration the dark and tangled lives of the Shelleys - the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who drowned at the age of 29, and his wife Mary, the author of Frankenstein. Their history is one of love and death, of secrets and betrayal, but it is also one full of strange silences and inexplicable gaps. My novel is an attempt to weave a story that can explain those silences. It's called A Treacherous Likeness in the UK, and A Fatal Likeness in the US.

I can't remember who it was who said you should write the sort of books you enjoy reading, but they were right - both my books combine my two great literary loves: classic English novels, and good detective fiction. I studied English at university (and have a doctorate in it too).

My other loves include cats (I have two), the English countryside (which I'm lucky enough to live in), Renaissance art (which I'm sadly not lucky enough to own), Palladian architecture, and America's finest police shows (Law & Order, Without a Trace, need I go on). Pet hates include wasps, monkeys, The Simpsons (just can't deal with the yellow faces), and the lazy use of the word "solutions" (I write for businesses as my day job, so that's the corporate copywriter creeping in).


My Twitter ID is @Lynn_Shepherd, and my website is www.lynn-shepherd.com.

Product Description

Review

A necessary eye for squalor, meticulous research and deft plotting, as well as the ability to handle the difficult God's-eye-view narration with aplomb...you'll be guaranteed to enjoy. (The Guardian)

It s a highly compelling, immaculately written 19th-century murder mystery. (Independent on Sunday)

A grisly period detective story with a light-hearted literary conceit (The Times)

An intelligent, gripping and beautifully written novel which sparkles with bibliophilic glee (The Scotsman)

Beautifully written..Shepherd has perfectly caught the tone of voice, ranging from the lawyer Tulkinghorn to Esther Summerson and Inspector Bucket, and describes the horrors of nineteenth century slums more candidly than any Victorian novelist ever could...an absorbing read (Literary Review)

I can think of no better way to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens than to recommend Tom-All-Alone's. This terrific Victorian mystery begins in dense fog, like Bleak House, and has an unemployed detective reluctantly obeying a summons to the rat-infested London churchyard of Tom-All-Alone's. The corpse of a newborn baby awaits him, marking the start of a case whose Dickensian horros are twinned with a sophisticated understanding of nature of sexual predation. (Joan Smith The Sunday Times)

Book Description

Tom-All-Alone's is a dark and gripping Victorian murder mystery, immersing the reader in a grim London underworld.

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Format: Hardcover
I can't fault Lynn Shepherd's elegant literary style, or the consummate research that has gone into this book; her passion for Dickens, Wilkie Collins, mid-Victorian London, the Sir John Soane house etc. shines through every page. And yet by the end of the book, I felt really rather irritated by all the pastiche and the deliberate use of characters, created by Dickens in 'Bleak House' (Mr Tulkinghorn, Inspector Bucket etc.), and Wilkie Collins in 'The Woman in White' and above all, I felt dubious about the way so many incidents and motifs have been borrowed from elsewhere. Of course, this is Lynn Shepherd's method and some readers will love the clever twists on the familiar (Jack the Ripper, for example) and will enjoy spotting the references but by the end, I'd had more than enough. In fact, the last page of the book left me feeling deeply annoyed! Just when you thinks it's all over, a real life person is lobbed in! I suppose this genre, seen by some as homage and as parasitism by others, doesn't appeal to me, or at any rate, it didn't work for me here. I do love 20th/21st century 'Vic. Lit.', but I prefer books where the author has created his/her own characters -for example, Sarah Waters in 'Fingersmith' or Michel Faber in 'The Crimson Petal and the White'.

Such a pity---Charles Maddox was an engaging character and I'd have liked to have known more about Molly. I'd have much preferred it if these characters had been allowed to live and breathe outside of the Dickensian framework.
A good book, but ultimately, the use Lynn Shepherd made of the characters Dickens created wasn't to my taste and I have considerable doubt as to whether books of this kind are a legitimate form of homage. I suspect someone who hasn't read 'Bleak House' will enjoy it more than someone who has!
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Format: Paperback
TOM ALL ALONE'S by Lynn Shepherd conjures up so many vivid images that it is like taking trip back in time to Victorian England ala H.G. Wells time machine. The writing is so descriptive you can almost smell the aromas pouring from the sewage laden streets which are inhabited by their equally filthy residents. Add to this scenario a former policeman turned private detective (Charles Maddox), a less than ethical lawyer named Tulkinghorn, some perverted and unscrupulous "fine gentlemen" who will go to any lengths to conceal their secrets, and a couple of mysteries waiting to be solved and you have the makings of a great read.

While pursuing the case of a missing woman for his one and only client, Charles is hired by lawyer Tulkinghorn to discover the identity of the culprit sending threatening letters to one of his rich patrons. We accompany Charles in his journey down the gas lit streets of London as his investigation turns up more information than he had anticipated and he uncovers a plethora of foul deeds perpetrated on the innocent and unaware. Like a bloodhound on the scent Charles pursues these leads, and death, brutality and bodily harm result.

Relationships are the order of the day in this novel and two play pivotal roles in this story. Charles relationship with his uncle whose appears to be suffering from Alzheimer's, and the bonds described in a separate narrative supplied by a young woman named Hester. The reader knows that all of these items somehow tie the mysterious storylines together but is not exactly sure of the "how, who and why".
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good idea that doesn't quite come off. Using characters from both "Bleak House" and "The Woman in White", the author attempts to fashion a detective story that runs alongside the two classic novels - that is, she is not writing a sequel or a "prequel" but inserting her novel into the same time frame as the two novels she is attempting to emulate.Like the new Sherlock Holmes novel "The House of Silk", she deliberately uses themes that would never have been considered in Victorian times - this is fine but the overall impression is of a muddle. Maybe she is attempting to put too much in- such as the Jack the Ripper suggestion - certainly her display of her own knowledge is not always welcome and the contemporary asides are just an intrusion. Considering that Charles Maddox is supposed to be a great detective there is an awful lot that he misses or only latches on to when it is too late!
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Format: Paperback
Tom-All-Alone's can be read without ever having familiarised yourself with Bleak House. However if you have read it, I would suggest that you sit back and enjoy reading a story by an author who is clearly inspired and motivated by Dickens, passionate about the general subject matter and - most importantly - is able to write in a way that both entertains and informs. Some reviewers have commented to the effect that Shepherd has done an injustice to Dickens and Bleak House, but I don't feel this is the case or her intention.

I concur with reviews that found the character of Charles Maddox a bit shambling at times, or a bit clueless for a detective, but actually that's what I like about him. There's certain realism there; I can picture him completely through Shepherds endearing portrayal, and what sets him apart is his dogged determination, the poignancy of his own back story and his affable, twinkly disposition. He's an agreeable sort of character and I'm not surprised that other readers have commented that they would read further Charles Maddox novels.

I felt completely immersed in the setting (my stomach went over at some of Shepherd's vivid and detailed description) and I was able to easily visualise various characters and their interaction with one another. No matter what the original inspiration, the characterisation has all the right ingredients for the period and genre and dialects are written competently. In terms of the narrator's voice, I enjoyed this refreshing, all-seeing view that looks back in time from another place. I can understand some readers found this device tricky to settle with, but for me it really made a change from the same old stance. Plot-wise there are a couple of possible discrepancies, but that could just be me missing something.
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