My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There are many unanswered questions about the short life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who lost many loved ones to untimely deaths. Lynn Shepherd’s latest Charles Maddox novel proposes some possibilities. Maddox is hired by the widow (who is the author of Frankenstein), son, and daughter in law of the famous poet, who live in fear of the publication of some scandalous material pertaining to those deaths. The Shelleys engage Maddox to ascertain whether Claire Claremont, despised stepsister to the widow, possesses compromising papers and plans to publish them. Soon he finds himself dead center in the battle of the relatives, and the truths he unmasks are indeed shocking.
This is an intriguing premise, but the book has some problems. First, the plot takes way too long to gel. Second, the characters, with the exception of Maddox, remain too shady and remote for the reader to gain a sense of who they really are. Third, the frequent shifts in perspective, as related by the omniscient narrator, are generally confusing. Fourth, the sinister conclusions drawn about the deaths are difficult to accept. Fifth, in spite of it all, there is very little of substance to learn about Percy’s life I know the author can do better, having enjoyed The Solitairy House, the first Charles Maddox novel. Perhaps some tighter editing could have made Likeness more readable.