Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dark Secrets in the Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley

It's 1850. Charles Maddox reluctantly takes on a new case. He's worried about his uncle, the famous thief taker, who suddenly collapsed after reading a letter and is still unable to speak. After a period of inaction, he takes the case mainly because it appears to relate to the reason for his uncle's illness. Perhaps if he understands the relationship, he will be able to help his uncle.

The clients are the only surviving son of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, and his wife. They are rigid Victorians intent on burnishing the image of the famous poet, and are destroying any papers that might reflect poorly on that image.

They are allegedly being harassed by the owner of some papers that would cast a very unflattering, if not criminal, light on the image of the poet and his intimates. Charles is commissioned to buy the papers. He accepts, but finds himself in a situation that not only affects the Shelleys, but his own history and that of his uncle.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author has obviously done extensive research on the Shelleys, finding unexplained gaps in their history and documents. Filling the gaps she has created a suspenseful tale of murder, revenge and love. Whether she has the correct explanation for the gaps is obviously unknown, but she's created a riveting tale of
suspense and intricate personal relationships.

The writing is supposed to be reminiscent of the time period. In fact, the author is an omniscient presence watching the characters as though on a stage. It's not difficult to read, but if you don't like author intrusion you may find it jarring.

I highly recommend this book, if you enjoy a good mystery. If you're offended by someone writing about historical personages in a revealing way, it's probably not the book for you.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.