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Tom-All-Alone's (Charles Maddox 2) [Paperback]

Lynn Shepherd
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012 Charles Maddox 2
The story of Tom-All-Alone's takes place in the 'space between' two masterpieces of mid-Victorian fiction: Bleak House and The Woman in White - overlapping with them, and re-imagining them for a contemporary reader, with a modern understanding of the grimmer realities of Victorian society. Charles Maddox, dismissed from the police force, is working as a private detective and can only hope to follow in his uncle's formidable footsteps as an eminent thief-taker. On a cold and bright Autumn morning, a policeman calls on Charles at his lodgings with information that may be related to a case he is working on. He goes to a ruined cemetery to find a shallow grave containing the remains of four babies has been discovered. After examining them he concludes they are not related to his investigation, which is to find a young girl abandoned in a workhouse 16 years before, when her mother died. But all is not as it first appears. As he's drawn into another case at the behest of the eminent but feared lawyer, Edward Tulkinghorn, London's sinister underbelly begins to emerge. From the first gruesome murder, Charles has a race against time to establish the root of all evil. Tom's-All-Alone is 'Dickens but darker' - without the comedy, without the caricature, and a style all its own. The novel explores a dark underside of Victorian life that Dickens and Collins hinted at - a world in which young women are sexually abused, unwanted babies summarily disposed of, and those that discover the grim secrets of great men brutally eliminated.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 178033169X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780331690
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 308,224 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

Product Description


A brilliant and sinister re-make of Bleak House, exposing the vicious underworld of Victorian London. Totally gripping.--John Carey

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

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'll be guaranteed to enjoy.--The Guardian

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, Sunday Times.

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 absorbing read.Literary Review.

There has recently been a rash of crime novels that are sequels or adaptations of classic fiction, mostly leaving long-dead authors turning in their graves. Shepherd's ingenious riff on Dickens's Bleak House is an exception, a clever and playful mystery stuffed with references to the works of several eminent Victorians.--Sunday Express

This is very much a crime novel, with some very nasty crimes indeed, but it s also a witty, literate entertainment that lets the reader play Spot-the-Reference. --Andrew Taylor, The Spectator

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Flawed 19 Mar 2012
By Smith
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment... 9 Mar 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I realise I'm out of step with most other reviewers, but I found this book a major disappointment after the wonderful Murder at Mansfield Park. There is no doubt that Lynn Shepherd writes well and has the ability to conjure up the atmosphere of Victorian London. However I felt that in this book she tried too hard to pack in references to some of the greatest novels of that age and in so doing disrupted the flow of her own plot.

The main reference is of course to Bleak House, but to set oneself up for a comparison to Dickens and then not to include any of the fun and joyousness that lightens the tone of even Dickens' darkest novels seems a strange decision and one that didn't work for me. Again, as she did in Murder at Mansfield Park, Shepherd twists the characters and plot of Bleak House but this time in a way that really grated. In MAMP, she gave us the enjoyable character of Mary to replace those characters she had made unlikeable - in this novel, I found all the characters unlikeable. And the irritating omniscient narrator device, constantly dragging us forward to the present day to look back on Victorian London with an air of smug superiority, became a really annoying distraction as the book wore on.

The first half of the book meandered along without giving us a real idea of what the detective Charles Maddox was trying to investigate - was it the disappearance of his sister, the deaths of the babies in the churchyard, the Tulkinghorn connection? The second half was more focused and she did manage to pull some of the threads together at the end, but still left too much unresolved, presumably as a hook for a follow-up - a follow-up that I'm afraid I will not be avidly awaiting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SENSORY JOURNEY 26 Jan 2013
By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars apparently..
according to lynn shepherd you don't need to read a book to critique it, so this must be very poor
Published 4 months ago by Viffer
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth reading...unlike the works of JK Rowling
I wont dignify this hack with the courtesy of commenting heavily on her book save to say its nothing special. At least ive read the books. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Anthony Cunningham
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Interested
Unfortunately this author believes that other top authors should cease writing novels once the have been successful. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr David Stafford
1.0 out of 5 stars An inferior novel for inferior people. Probably.
I haven't read a word of this book. Why would I, when "there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds". Read more
Published 5 months ago by sound advice.
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands -All-Alone
This excellent historical whodunnit is based on the characters and story of Charles Dickens', Bleak House. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mont Blanc
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Took a bit to realise this is not a copy of Bleak House but a quite different story, set in the same time and some of the same places, with some of the same characters (but not the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Colleen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I got on line as soon as I had finished it to find some more of her work.
Published 9 months ago by jam angel
1.0 out of 5 stars An Ugly Caricature of Bleak House
I read a review, or blurb (I can't remember which) that described this as a bridge between Bleak House and The Woman in White. It is not. Read more
Published 11 months ago by pigsmayfly
4.0 out of 5 stars Grimly Victorian
Very dark and portrays the squalor of life in Victorian times particularly well, the book feels well researched and if the basic premises are accurate then for the vulnerable there... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jo Brookes
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable - I loved it!
This was flagged up to me by Amazon's 'Books you may also like' and after reading the reviews on here and because I really like the genre I ordered it. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Madeleine C-W
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