The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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August 16, 2013

A Fatal Likeness

This hasn't been a good couple of weeks for reading. I'm waiting for some news {good news!} and it feels not so much suspenseful as suspended until it comes. When things are like this, I turn to mysteries. {I've also been listening to the audiobook of Consider the Fork, one of my favorite books from last year.  When things are like this, learning again about the history of the level tablespoon is also very restful.}
A Fatal Likeness is the newest book in Lynn Shepherd's series about 19th-century London detective Charles Maddox.  It has a fascinating premise {one that I had forgotten about till I started reading, so it was a nice surprise}:  Maddox is summoned by Sir Percy Shelley and his wife, the blustering son and controlling daughter-in-law of Percy Bysshe Shelley (the poet) and Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) to investigate the person who is trying to sell them papers that would damage the late poet's already questionable reputation. The novel becomes a semi-historical, semi-imagined account  of the ménage a trois among Shelley, Mary, and Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont. 
As it turns out, Charles' great-uncle and mentor has also handled a case involving Shelley, and Charles does not realize at first that a letter sent to his uncle relating to those earlier matters is what precipitated an attack that left his uncle unable to speak, and unable to help him with the current affair.  A lot of the unfolding seems to come in the form of letters, or diary entries, or old case notes, and that muted the writing once in while, at least for me. But on the other hand, in the author's notes at the beginning and end of the book, Lynn Shepherd explains that she did extensive research, and that she used as much historical truth and documents as she could.  Knowing that helps make the story especially (and horribly) fascinating. I've had a work of nonfiction about this group -- The Young Romantics, by Daisy Hay -- on my reading list for a long time, and now I see that Miranda Seymour, an author I enjoy reading, has written a biography of Mary Shelley as well. This would be great reading for R.I.P in October. :)
A Fatal Likeness is being published this month. Thank you to Random House, via NetGalley, for giving me a chance to read it.


Lisa said...

I hope your good news comes soon! I haven't seen this series before, but I always enjoy stories set in Victorian London, especially mysteries - when the detectives have none of the modern tools for solving crimes.

JoAnn said...

I hope your good news comes this week... fingers crossed!

Did I miss your post about Consider the Fork? It's in my Netflix queue, but I didn't realize it was based on a book. Loved the audio sample. My wish list has grown again.

Thank you for visiting!

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