A Treacherous Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd (Corsair UK):
In her follow-up to last year’s The Solitary House, author Lynn Shepherd draws us back to the mid-19th century and into the company of private sleuth Charles Maddox, the great-nephew of the detective she employed in her debut novel, 2010’s Murder at Mansfield Park (a tribute to the work of Jane Austen). In A Treacherous Likeness, Maddox--having accepted an assignment from the surviving, disagreeable son of British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary (the author of Frankenstein)--discovers himself caught up in a vicious quarrel over the long-dead writer’s legacy. His search through previously concealed papers also raises serious questions about the demise, in 1816, of Shelley’s original spouse, Harriet, whom the writer had abandoned two years before she was found--drowned and pregnant--in London’s Hyde Park. Could Harriet’s “suicide” have been something far more disturbing than that? And might Maddox’s great-uncle have had a hand in covering up the real circumstances of Harriet’s death? Shepherd does a fine job of blending facts and informed supposition into an atmospherically rich whole. This same novel, retitled A Fatal Likeness, has been set for release in the States come August.
* * *Also new and worth locating: Lawrence Block’s Hit Me (Mulholland), which finds series assassin-for-hire John P. Keller leaving his family and what he’d hoped would be a new life in New Orleans, renovating houses, in order to take on several more lucrative--and colorful--kill jobs in New York, the West Indies, and Wyoming; and Gordon McAlpine’s unusual Hammett Unwritten (Seventh Street Books), in which Dashiell Hammett struggles through a years-long writer’s block that thrusts him back into the company of the “real” characters who inspired the story of The Maltese Falcon.