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ROMANTIC, I THINK NOT.,
This review is from: A Fatal Likeness (Hardcover)
Lynn Shepherd's new novel of place, character and time is the second exploration into the life of Charles Maddox, Victorian era investigator. In this outing he is hired by descendents of Percy Bysshe Shelley to retrieve some papers that could prove to be most damaging to the memory of the poet as well as ruinous the reputation of the family. A FATAL LIKENESS (also published as A TREACHEROUS LIKENESS) is a haunting, moody and beautifully executed novel that left me thinking about the characters and their secret lives long after I had closed the cover on the final page. The author's rather interesting and circumspect speculations are based upon her in depth research and left me with many questions about Shelley, his wife Mary and her step-sister Claire. Did Mary really write the celebrated FRANKENSTEIN novel or was it really Shelley? Was Shelley, the twice-wed unfaithful husband, really a closet pedophile who also suffered from paranoia and manic depression? Was the death of the couples' children the result of Munchausen by proxy or simple a case of bad luck? How many women loved Shelley and what was the cost of that love to each of them? Guess I, like Ms. Shepherd will have to follow in her footsteps and do some research of my own.
There are secrets to be unearthed from their hiding places in the many layers of this historical fiction narrative, some that directly involve Maddox's great uncle, whose declining health and memory preclude him from providing Charles with direct assistance as he struggles to ferret out answers to mysteries long buried.
Each secret is slowly revealed via letters, long concealed confessions and case histories, posthumous messages and questionable deaths in a tale that reads like a cross between a biography, a mystery, and a fairy tale straight out of Grimm.
For readers who dislike the third person style of writing, this book may prove to be a bit off-putting, but for those who enjoy well written reading matter that juxtaposes fascinating details of Regency and Victorian era personages and the cultural idiosyncrasies of the era with today's conventional wisdom it should prove to be a thought provoking read. Obviously, THE ROMANTICS refers only to their poetry because closer examination of their personal lives would have earned them the label of "THE CHAOTICS".