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.
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.