• Publisher: Random House (Delacorte)
  • Publication date: 24/10/2014
  • Book title: The Pierced Heart
  • Format: Hardback & e-book

The Pierced Heart

By Lynn Shepherd

A dark and chilling Gothic crime story, set in Victorian England, and inspired by Bram Stoker's classic.

After the award-winning Murder at Mansfield Park, and the critically-acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s/The Solitary House and A Treacherous Likeness/A Fatal Likeness, The Pierced Heart is the fourth in Lynn Shepherd’s series of literary mysteries. 19th century detective Charles Maddox returns once more, in a novel inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Clever, chilling and compelling by turns, The Pierced Heart both echoes that iconic book and engages in a new and enticing way with the vampire theme that has become such a powerful stimulus for both film and horror fiction in the past few years.

Building on extensive research into the literature and history of the period, Lynn Shepherd takes the vampire motif back to its original literary roots, and re-examines it in the context of mid-Victorian scientific and technological progress, as exemplified in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which forms a fascinating back-drop to the novel. Hired by the University of Oxford to verify the credentials of an enigmatic potential donor to its ancient library, Charles Maddox travels halfway across Europe to the Austrian Empire, and the castle of the Baron Von Reisenberg. Aristocrat, industrialist, and pioneering scientist, the Baron is also a man who hides a horrific secret. Barely escaping with his life, Charles returns eventually to London to find the city in the throes of a series of brutal murders that have left three young prostitutes savagely mutilated by a killer they’re calling The Vampire. But could the girls’ severed heads and eviscerated hearts be evidence of an even more appalling depravity? Interwoven throughout the novel is the journal of a young girl called Lucy, assistant to the master of a celebrated phantasmagoria, who suffers from an affliction of the blood that causes terrifying symptoms no doctor can explain.

Deriving inspiration both from Dracula and from the strange life of a mysterious and long-forgotten real-life scientist, The Pierced Heart dramatizes a fatal clash between science and superstition, at a time of profound change and dangerous transition.

Reviews and quotes

  • Ian Rankin
    This book kept me wide awake on my last long-haul flight – a reimagining of the Dracula story. Tense, terrific
  • The Dracula Society
    Captures some of the best passages and elements of Dracula, while at the same time creating a thrilling and absorbing crime novel.
  • Kirkus (starred review)
    Another tour de force with a striking finale from Shepherd.
  • Lancashire Evening Post
    Shepherd has become a mistress of literary conceit, nodding her head at the classics but conjuring up her own magic with tantalising tales that revisit well-trodden themes and territories but bravely venture down extravagant and fanciful new avenues....The Pierced Heart is a clever and seductive pastiche of genres – horror, mystery, history and crime – the author mercilessly toying with our expectations as the plot gains momentum and builds to an electrifying and stunning dénouement. A stylish and gripping Gothic revival
  • The Tablet
    This darkly literary thriller is resolved [in] a miracle of storytelling: historical and psychological reality underpin a complex dissection of age-old nightmares. The essence of good fireside reading"
  • Crimetime
    For many readers, Lynn Shepherd's tales of the Victorian detective Charles Maddox are among the most rewarding in the genre... This artful romp is a delight from beginning to end
  • Historical Novel Society
    Compulsively readable, suspenseful, and dark. ... I certainly highly recommend this book
  • Eurocrime
    Lynn Shepherd does such a great job of refreshing - with tongue decidedly in cheek - classic Victorian literature, in a way that makes you fall back in love with the original even as you enjoy her new take.