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.
“Tense, terrific” Ian Rankin
“Another tour de force with a striking finale from [Lynn] Shepherd, who specializes in turning iconic novels into clever, complicated mysteries for her tormented hero to solve”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Shepherd’s [plots] are darkly serious and feel very real. . . . The idea that Stoker’s novel was somehow inspired by events surrounding the subject of Maddox’s investigation seems tantalizing plausible. Another sterling entry in this imaginative series”
“A heart-thumping climax . . . The Pierced Heart is a clever and seductive pastiche of genres [that] builds to an electrifying and stunning dénouement. A stylish and gripping Gothic revival”
Lancashire Evening Post
“Compulsively readable, suspenseful, and dark . . . The book is unsettling in the best way. . . . This is a new tale, with a similar creepy flavor that Dracula lovers will enjoy”
Historical Novels Review
“With wonderfully descriptive passages and stunningly atmospheric prose, Shepherd spins a compelling, intricately plotted story which quite capably stands apart from the novel that inspires it”
Book Batter (five stars)
“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”