Charles Maddox's latest case is to vet the credentials of a wealthy Austro-Hungarian nobleman who offers a gift to the Bodleian Library. Oxford is eager for the gift, but doesn't want to be embarrassed later, so Charles is sent to visit Freiherr von Reisenberg in his castle.
The castle is lavish and the scientific achievements of von Reisenberg are astonishing. At first Charles is overwhelmed, but as days pass the atmosphere in the castle weighs on him. Like the original Count Dracula, von Reisenberg doesn't seem to eat. He stays away from the sun, and there are no mirrors in the castle. In addition there are rooms that Charles is not supposed to visit. As the days wear on, he feels that something is amiss and investigates. His searches get him into trouble, but finally he is able to reach London.
Back in London the Great Exhibition is opening, and the news is rife with the violent murders of young women. Charles is again involved in the investigation.
The chapters about Charles' investigation are interspersed with chapters from Lucy's journal. She is a young woman from Vienna who helps her father with illusions. Although at first the two parts of the story seem unrelated, Shepard manages to wind it all together at the end.
This book follows the plot of Dracula closely including the rather archaic language of Bram Stoker's original. Although true to the period, Shepard's prose feels pretentious and somewhat out of place. The digressions to explain what a character is thinking do not feel natural. I think the story could have been carried without having to resort to stylistic devices from an earlier era.
If you're a fan of the Charles Maddox series, you'll enjoy this book, but I wouldn't suggest starting here. There are many unexplained background occurences that make clear the main character's motives that are not fleshed out in this book. While I'm glad the author didn't spend time on long background sections, it does make it difficult to understand the relationships between the characters.
I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.