The wonderful thing about the world of Hive and books is finding a new author. Some of you may already know Lynn Shepherd but I didn’t until a trusted friend introduced me to her earlier on this year. Shepherd describes her novels as ‘literary mysteries’ but I think that undersells them. Yes they are literary but the detail and meticulous research take this on to a superior level.
When Dickens wrote Bleak House he wanted to expose “a society that was rotten to the core” and this re-working of his classic novel pays full and true homage to him. Like many a Victorian novel it begins with a dense fog and a young detective Charles Maddox is taken to a cemetery because the remains found in a shallow grave may have a link to a case he is working on. We are drawn into an underworld of prostitution, child exploitation and crime that worryingly are still evident in the twentieth century.
I read this on holiday in bright sunshine (it was the week of good weather) but the overwhelming sinister atmosphere of the underside of Victorian life made me shiver but it is such an absorbing read I couldn’t put it down.
Dickens was a close friend of Wilkie Collins and there is a nod to The Woman in White as Shepherd draws parallels between it and Bleak House. Although three of her characters originate from Bleak House she has seamlessly written them into this brilliant book. Mr Dickens would approve.
I now have the next Charles Maddox, A Treacherous Likeness, on my to-read pile – this time she’s tackling Mary Shelley.