A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd is a British author who studied English in Oxford and worked as a freelance copywriter for more than a decade.

A Treacherous Likeness is the third book in Image of book A Treacherous Likenessthe Charles Maddox series. I have not read the first (Murder at Mansfield Park) but read the second (Tom-All-Alone’s) over six years ago. I enjoyed it so much that I borrowed A Treacherous Likeness from a friend shortly after, unfortunately I have only just got round to reading it (thankfully my friend is patient).

(Note: Outside of the UK, Tom-All-Alone’s is called A Solitary House, and A Treacherous Likeness is called A Fatal Likeness)

A Treacherous Likeness follows Charles Maddox, an investigator in the mid-19th century, as he works to unravel the mysteries surround the life of poet Percy Shelley and his wife, author Mary Shelley.

Throughout the book I found myself changing my opinions of the main characters continuously, in fact I’m still not 100% sure what I think of them. There is a lot of history, London in the 19th century, the class system etc. There is also a lot of interesting information about the Shelleys. This is of course combined with fictitious characters and events. The author’s note at the end is very helpful in separating fact from fiction and speculation.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read. I like Shepherd’s way of writing, she occasionally talks to you separate from the story, discussing how a behaviour would result in a medical diagnosis nowadays etc. Although it takes you out of the period the story is based in, it seems to somehow bring you closer to the characters.

This book has raised a lot of questions for me about the Shelleys and even about Byron. I’m leaving it with lots of curiosity and will be doing some research about them all to sate it.

I really enjoyed reading this and am pleased to see that there has been a fourth book released in the series, although it does seem to be only on the Kindle that I can find it. Regardless, I hope it’s not another six years before I read it. I would also like to go back and read the first in the series.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister is the first book by British author Beth Underdown.

Image of bookSet in the 17th century in Essex and across parts of Suffolk, the book follows Alice as she returns home to her brother in the midst of the Civil War in England. Upon returning home she finds herself pulled into a world of witch-hunting.

Interestingly this book is a fictionalised account of a real person from history, Matthew Hopkins – one of the witch-hunters who was responsible for the death of a significant number of people.

Some of the women detailed in the book are real women who were tried or testified and some chapters are opened with documents that have been compiled from actual historical sources.

I found this book to be really well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The character of Alice, and the other main characters, were so well written. I could completely relate to Alice and understand her struggle with what was happening.

Underdown paints a vivid picture of what is taking place and it’s so interesting to see reasons why women could be accused of being a witch. I find myself wondering if people truly believed that they were witches, or just didn’t like their actions and choices and so used it as a reason to punish them.

The story moved at a good pace, I didn’t find myself getting bored or wishing there wasn’t so much to read. The book finished well for me, mostly. There was one piece, in fact the final sentence, which I cannot work out whether or not I like. Part of me enjoyed it, and the other part thought it was a bit too much. If you’ve read the book please let me know what you thought of that sentence.

I hope that there are more books to come from Underdown, if there are I would most definitely be interested in reading them.

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine

The Ghost Tree is the most recent book by Image of bookBritish author Barbara Erskine. Ruth returns home to Scotland to visit her sick father who dies shortly after. When sorting out his possessions she comes across old items belonging to her late mother and starts to unravel a mysterious family history.

Given that this book was about family history, British history and had a bit of the paranormal thrown in it was ideal for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, getting through it in just two days and hardly putting it down. I found all of the characters to be really well written, even the ‘baddies’ had some depth to them and weren’t two dimensional like they so often are in books.

This is a book about Ruth and her ancestor Thomas, and it swapped between the two almost seamlessly. I found I was completely engrossed in the book, always wanting to know what was going to happen next, and not appreciating having my attention pulled away from it.

I liked the fact that the paranormal side of it wasn’t easily accepted, Ruth is reluctant to believe in it and uses logic and reason to argue against it being true. For me this made the character of Ruth easier to relate to and made it less of a science fiction book and more historical fiction.

I was worried that the ‘present day’ storyline would take away from the historical one, however I feel that it managed to balance the two very well. I also enjoyed the authors note at the end, untangling the fact from fiction as Thomas was indeed a real person, and the author is in fact distantly related to him.

I have never read any books by Erskine before but if they are all as well written as this I will have to change that. Are you familiar with Barbara Erskine? Are there any of her books you would recommend?

Read other reviews of the book at the blogs listed in the image below that will be published on the dates listed.

Thank you to Love Reading and Harper Collins for my copy of the book to read and review.

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

The Bone Garden is written by Tess Gerritsen.  It wasn’t what I expected at all.  I had assumed that it would be in the series that the TV show Rizzoli and Isles was based on but it was only very loosely linked.

Image of bookThe Bone Garden follows the story of, you guessed it, some bones found in a garden.  It flits between the present and the early 19th-century.  Sometimes moving between eras can be confusing and cause the reader problems following the story, but in this case I actually found it very easy to move from the present to the past and back again.

There were lots of characters to keep track of but I found that this wasn’t too difficult.  I felt a connection to the four main characters (two in the past and two in the present), and although some of the more peripheral characters were rather two dimensional, the main ones had different facets to their personality and were complicated as all humans are.  The characters were described well, both their physical appearance and also their personality.

The handling of the different classes in Boston in the early 19th-century was also interesting. Nowadays it seems Americans are proud of their Irish ancestry and I was quite surprised to see how Irish immigrants were treated and looked on back then. Although unfortunately this is not dissimilar to how immigrants are treated now in many countries, no matter where they’re from. It was interesting to see how things have changed, yet not changed at the same time.

It was quite graphic in parts, the autopsy training scene and various descriptions, however it felt as though it was required and a natural part of the story.

I found the details around how medicine was in the early 19th-century really interesting, the things that we take for granted now had not even being thought of then.  I also really liked the inclusion of a real-life person, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes.  It has sparked an interest for me and I will be researching him and his impact on how medicine is practiced now. 

Overall this was a great introduction to Tess Gerritsen and I am eager to read more of her books.