A Treacherous Likeness/A Fatal Likeness
By Lynn Shepherd
A mystery that explores the dark lives and unexplained secrets of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein
In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.
Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide.
As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years.
The story of the Shelleys is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal. In this follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s, Lynn Shepherd offers her own fictional version of that story, which suggests new and shocking answers to mysteries that still persist to this day, and have never yet been fully explained.
Reviews and quotes
Miranda Seymour, biographer of Mary Shelley
A wonderfully ingenious novel: perceptive, gripping and fascinating in the way it reshapes familiar material to create a story that I found to be marvellously persuasive. Shepherd's use of her research material is really magnificent.
Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham
A potent mixture of passion, intrigue, perversion, and betrayal, exploring the lives of Shelley, Byron, and their Romantic intimates through a Gothic lens.
Francine Mathews, aka Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen Mysteries series
Shepherd sets a new standard of brilliance in historical fiction with A Fatal Likeness. Her summoning of dead souls—Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and their most intimate circle—is so psychologically penetrating it feels like truth. Exquisitely rendered in Shepherd’s pitch-perfect prose, this is a tale that will haunt the reader long after its close
Simon Brett, novelist and playwright
Combines immaculate historical research with shrewd psychological insight and the pacing of a thriller - a very good read.
Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist
Gothic mystery that goes down swift and smooth, though there's also satisfyingly imaginative 'What if?' speculation for fans of the sexiest Romantics. Polished, smart and fun
Stephen Gallagher, author of The Bedlam Detective
A dazzling mosaic of detection, memory, and misdirection
Deanna Raybourn, author of the Julia Grey novels
With a compelling voice and a keen eye for period detail, Lynn Shepherd lays bare a tangled story of thwarted love and twisted passions. Absolutely chilling and not to be missed
Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
A clever, imaginative and literate mystery
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
Shepherd shines again in this superb Victorian thriller
This multi-layered, meticulously researched book, so evocative of mid-Victorian England... An absolute must
As a piece of literary detective work, it’s stimulating and hugely fun — even brilliant
A literary whodunit that asks pertinent questions about the Shelleys... this is a story which will keep you turning the pages..... suspense-filled plot, skilful characterisation and atmospheric setting
The novel is concerned with rum goings-on in the Shelley-Byron circle, and uses a mystery plot to fill in some of the lacunae of their life stories, with what I thought was remarkable ingenuity.
Huffington Post Books
A wholly believable and chilling story of love, deceit, heartbreak, revenge, and loss. [Shepherd] also manages to conjure up England in the 1800s, along with a cast of richly developed characters, while also incorporating the poetry of Shelley into her text, both in hidden ways and in direct quotations... She's inspired in me a whole new interest in Shelley, and a renewed desire to read his works, as well Frankenstein, all over again... Shepherd is a marvel, and A Fatal Likeness is a must-read.
Perceptive and beautifully researched ... a fast-paced, urgent, highly atmospheric account.... Her gripping novel, enjoyable as it is, goes beyond simple entertainment to try to say something new about a lingering literary mystery.
BBC History magazine
Lynn Shepherd's Victorian private detective Charles Maddox, hero of her brilliant Dickensian pastiche, Tom-All-Alone's, makes another appearance in A Treacherous Likeness.....Shepherd again shows a dazzling ability to mix linguistic flair with a gripping plot
Lancashire Evening Post
A dark, new and excitingly authentic version of a literary enigma.... refreshingly readable.... beautifully executed ... intelligent, revealing and exciting in the sheer power of its possibility
The York Press
An intriguing and exciting novel... a story of love, loss and betrayal that has the reader enthralled from the first page to the last
A persuasive and imaginative tour de force of extrapolative fiction... The multi-layered plotting is extraordinarily satisfying... A complete joy.
South China Morning Post
Shepherd creates a smart, if fantastic murder story out of real-life events. Clever and great fun.
Historical Novel Society
The writing in this work is glorious, and I recommend it highly
Lovers of literary mysteries and historical fiction will appreciate the balanced approach Shepherd takes in A Fatal Likeness
Crime fiction lover website
...has the pace, suspense and intermittent darkness of a Gothic novel. Fans of historical crime fiction will appreciate the lovingly observed period detail and careful rendition of Victorian prose style, with a nicely woven in mystery angle.
The Oxford author’s sense of Dickensian London intensifies the horror of her melodramatic whodunnit, with its fogs, swirling leaves, smells, poverty, infant deaths, adultery and secrets. Her original vision and ample research bring to life a lost world, leaving us wondering to what extent art can enrich reality... None of her strong cast of characters, not even narrator Charles, comes out well, but all are evoked with skill and sensitivity in this gripping story
Maddox's brooding character, and Shepherd's own voice, which uses the present tense in a way that makes it seem that we are spying on Maddox's movements, are both enthralling... A solid atmospheric read, sure to be of interest to English majors
The Gothic Imagination website, University of Stirling
Wonderfully Gothic and thrilling... the novel is a rich, successful attempt at weaving a highly-imaginative narrative through historical fact. Mystery, secrecy and thrills are in abundance as the story unravels, leaving you turning the pages eagerly, ever in pursuit of the truth, through a fantastic variety of fictional letters and accounts. Shepherd’s historical research gives this novel the kick it really needs, and I felt her own personal opinion was interesting, brave and extremely thought-provoking. This is a great novel that deserves a read, particularly if you’re interested in the young Romantics, and the ever-mysterious lives of the infamous, and fantastic, Shelleys
Good Book Guide
Evocatively conjuring early Victorian London... a compelling story of love, loss, death, and deep duplicity
We Love This Book
Shepherd’s prose is suffused with the gothic greatness of her muses. From the opening pages she grips the reader with familiarly foreboding skies and complex characters. ... Following on from her takes on Austen’s Mansfield Park and Dickens’ Bleak House, the depth of Shepherd’s research is again clear, this time embellishing the lives of the writers themselves. An altogether compelling read.
Immaculately researched, takes bare historical facts and weaves them into a fiction that is gripping from beginning to end
Upcoming4me speculative fiction site
Shepherd [has] created with A Fatal Likeness something insanely exciting and thought provoking. Ever since finishing the novel, I've been thinking about it, reading up on the background and discovering new things - what more can you ask from a book? Simply a triumph!