The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd #BookReview

Pierced

The Pierced Heart continues the story of Lynn Shepherd’s flawed detective Charlie Maddox. Regretting his behaviour towards servant girl, Molly, he is haunted by her in his dreams which are not abated by a mission to Austria, where he finds himself in a strange castle deep in the Austrian countryside. As the plot progresses the actions of his host, Baron Von Reisenberg, take us to the Gothic world of Bram Stoker and Charlie begins to descend into madness.

For me this story came to life in Chapter 4, at the beginning of the journal of Lucy, in January 1851. Describing her travels in Paris and Vienna she is about to return to Whitby, a home she cannot remember. She recounts how she has assisted her father in deceiving audiences with phantasmagoria and how gradually her health has weakened. In the style of the books of Essie Fox and Wilkie Collins, Lucy’s plight worsens with each episode we read.

At times, the novel seems too gratuitous for me, but others will relish the descriptions of a series of violent murders of young women in London, 40 years before Jack the Ripper. This is an intense, captivating book to read and the ending, though not really a surprise, was very satisfying.

The Pierced Heart can be purchased on Amazon UK

Death and Dominion by Carol Hedges

DD

This sensational novel has everything; passion, mystery, love, disappointment and humour.  A devastatingly handsome man, Mr Mark Hawksley, who is not all he seems, impresses all he encounters, from the no-nonsense northern factory owner, Mr Bulstrode, to the russet haired, penniless lady’s companion, Belinda Kite, just arrived in London and hungry for all it offers.

As Bulstrode and other men of substance are pulled into the web of a promised fortune and Belinda finds opportunities for happiness and material goods, two other couples are bitter and despondent.  As if nothing worse could happen, poison enters their homes, but who is the culprit?  Detecting the crime is the responsibility of Detective Inspector Stride and Detective Sergeant Cully, whom you may have met before in Diamonds and Dust or Honour and Obey, where they proved themselves to be honourable, hard working men, eager to find the truth.  But they have another case to solve.  All over London Biblical condemnations such as, “Thou shalt not worship graven images,” are appearing, written in bright red paint and the gutter press have seized upon this to comment that while London is on the verge of anarchy, the police force are unable to cope.

The transition between the actions and emotions of our flawed heroine, Belinda and the gradual revelations about the criminal cases investigated by the two policemen are interwoven seamlessly as the story flows to a just conclusion.  Those who have done wrong, suffer suitable punishment, the good are rewarded and a few, whom we can’t help liking despite their misdemeanours, have the chance to set out on a new course of life.

Once again, Carol Hedges has immersed us in the murky but fascinating world of Victorian London with her atmospheric descriptions and superb characterisation.  A must read book!

Honour and Obey by Carol Hedges

Honour

Do you want to find yourself walking the streets of Victorian London on a night of “relentless rain” seeing people hurrying back to their semi-detached villas and tiny hovels, a place where evil and kindness stand side by side?   Then this is the book for you.

“Honour and Obey” is packed with richly drawn characters with fascinating names.  Who could not wish to make the acquaintance of Lobelia and Hyacinth Clout, as they make their way to the church hall of Rev. Ezra Bittersplit, where they will listen to a talk about the Overseas Missionary Society for the Conversion of African Heathens, given by Eustacia Mullygrub?

Throughout the book, Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his assistant Detective Sergeant Jack Cully are in pursuit of a dastardly killer who seeks out innocent young women as his prey.  So often they miss the murderer by seconds without realising it and they are hampered by the lurid exaggeration of the crimes in the popular press.

Parallel to the investigation, three young women seek happiness.  Hyacinth, after a life of drudgery with her mother now seeks independence from her demanding sister Lobelia, while Portia Mullygrub also wishes to leave the family home where she works tirelessly as her mother’s secretary, in order to begin married life with her fiancé.  Meanwhile, penniless Emily Benet just wants to survive in a cruel world.

This witty novel is a delicious feast of Victorian delights; the gruesome murders, foundlings and workhouse families, do-gooders and honest hard working individuals.  The streets, houses, shops and hospital dissection room are all described in vivid detail and the complex plot interwoven seamlessly.  I can highly recommend “Honour and Obey” as a Christmas treat, but you will find it very hard to put down!