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. This follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s offers a new fictionalised 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.
A historical fiction novel of the year for BBC History magazine, and one of 2013’s 100 best novels for Kirkus Reviews.
Published as A Treacherous Likeness in the UK, and A Fatal Likeness in the US
“Shepherd shines again in this superb Victorian thriller. . . . The novel works equally as a family story, a blend of horror and mystery, and a plausible hypothesis about why so many women and children associated with Shelley died mysterious deaths”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The reader is drawn into the narrative of this multi-layered, meticulously researched book, so evocative of mid-Victorian England, in which Shepherd not only proffers a plausible thesis into the mysteries surrounding Shelley’s life, but also an insight into the hardships and sufferings of those whose lives were blighted by such taboos as mental illness and infant mortality. An absolute must”
“[Shepherd] takes the familiar story of the Shelley family and fills in the holes in the historical record by turning it into a clever, imaginative and literate mystery”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Charged with passion, betrayals and conspiracies, [A Fatal Likeness] more than restores Shelley’s darker side, yet it is Mary you won’t be able to forget”
“As a piece of literary detective work, it’s stimulating and hugely fun – even brilliant”
“Her conclusion has haunted me ever since I finished the book”
Independent on Sunday
“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”
Lancashire Evening Post
“Maddox’s brooding character and Shepherd’s own voice . . . are both enthralling”