I reviewed Tom-All-Alone’s in March and having enjoyed Charles Maddox’ investigations in London 1850’s, when Corsair offered a proof copy of A Treacherous Likeness, I was eager to find out where his investigations would take us this time. Added to that …Mary Wollestonecraft Shelly, Percy Florence Shelley, Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin and William Godwin are interred in St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth (and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s heart is said to be buried there too). The Shelley’s left behind their heritage with quite a few road names/places named after them here. The hotel where I had my wedding reception is situated on Wollestonecraft Road (photographs of the church and tomb at the end of my review).
Even though A Treacherous Likeness follows on from Tom-All-Alone’s, it’s not imperative you’ve read it to be able to enjoy A Treacherous Likeness.
The story opens with Charles Maddox in his uncle’s house. His personality and uncle’s situation is made clear. The link between the start of his uncle’s illness and a calling card is shared. Abel talks Charles into contacting the owner of the calling card … Percy Shelley and his wife Jane. The reason they give for hiring Charles is that they want to protect his mother, Mary Shelley/the family name – but this hides layers upon layers of intrigue.
Vital information is missing from his uncle’s case papers, which is a surprise to Charles. His uncle kept everything no matter what would be revealed. Managing to present himself as a lodger to Claire Claremont (step-sister to Mary Shelley and mistress of Lord Byron) he finds her memoirs of the summer of 1816.
Charles compares the information from the two step-sisters to a game of chess:
“For is not chess a game, in the end, of sacrifice? Of knowing how much to forfeit for a greater end? … snip … it was a pawn she surrendered, nothing more. There must be a far more important piece in play here, if he could but discover it.”
I loved that as Charles uncovered an answer, there was far more underlying it. Even at the end there is another part that finally falls into place when it is least expected. This intrigue was a real page turner for me.
Shepherd’s writing style is very much in keeping with the time period of the story. This, alongside the descriptions of London as we journey with Charles, made it very easy for me to believe I was there. The reader becomes involved in Charles’ life … I loved watching Charles’ uncle with Betsy and servant Molly’s predicament provoked sorrow. I think Charles is a bit harsh with young Billy and wonder what part he has to play in Charles’ future investigations.
Another thing I really liked about this story is that although it is fictional, Shepherd interweaves her story with the facts that are known seamlessly together and even though we don’t know all the ‘facts’ , this has plausible answers to the real life mystery … making it a read I just couldn’t put down.
A Treacherous Likeness also explores life in the 1850’s. We encounter mental illness, infant deaths, obsession/free love and of course it lays bare how far a family may go to cover up their secrets.
A keeper for me! I know Lynn Shepherd is working on her next novel and am eagerly awaiting where Charles will take us next.
I would like to thank the publishers for providing a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.