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The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd
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The Pierced Heart

by Lynn Shepherd

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
It seems like when I comment on the book I'm currently reading before I've finished, it's akin to the 'kiss of death', because inevitably the book somehow, someway begins to fizzle and what once seemed like a slam-dunk 5 star rating loses ground and finishes with far fewer stars.

The book is steeped in Dracula references, atmospheric settings, and dark, foreboding characters, and features a recurring character, Charles Maddox. Its beginning was gripping and rich in ambience, which set the scene perfectly for a cliche horror story.
Maddox was really only a small cog in this story, the real star was the evil Baron Von Reisenberg, although he could just as well have been a Count, if you get my drift.

Because the book started out like gangbusters, the fact that a large chunk of the middle was excruciatingly difficult to read, was a real bummer. It was a struggle to wade through and I was disappointed that the same pace couldn't have been maintained throughout. The end was also a let down, with it's too pat ending, but it did leave a segue for the author to begin the next in the series, which I gather was her intent.

( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
'Dracula' meets 19th-century Science and Séance. But, mainly, it's Dracula.
For the first 2/3rds of the book, the story was similar enough that I had to say: "Why not just go read Bram Stoker?"
The ending picks up the pace and mixes it up a bit - although there's a 'twist' at the end that will likely only be appreciated by people that have read the previous three books in this series (I have not.)

A young British man is sent to investigate the reputation of a foreign nobleman who wishes to make a significant donation to a bequest. It wouldn't do, you see, for an institution to accept money from a questionable source.

Unfortunately, although the giver is undeniably noble, wealthy and a brilliant businessman and inventor, questions do indeed arise. His castle is downright spooky, he's clearly hiding secrets, the local peasants are superstitious about him, and then there's a odd correlation between his travels and the location of the discoveries of the mutilated bodies of murdered young women...

Meanwhile, a young woman with a tendency toward the vapors travels as well, assisting her father with his magic show - one that has recently taken a turn toward spiritualism. Her health has also taken a turn for the worse, and in desperation, her father contacts yet another doctor who's interested in proposing an experimental course of treatment...

The book is billed as a 'Charlie Maddox mystery' but honestly, I never got much of a sense of Mr. Maddox here. The two main characters are the swooning, easily-influenced Lucy, and the enigmatic Dracula, I mean, Baron Von Reisenberg.

The prose is a faux-19th-century style, which I didn't mind - except when the voice of a modern narrator intrudes unnecessarily, which happens periodically. (Things like: 'once called a sequential killer, nearly a hundred years before the coinage of a far better-known modern phrase' or mentioning in passing that arsenic in paint [unknown to any of the characters] will, years later, cause the demise of attendants at an asylum.) It's jarring, and moreover, the style of the book is out-of-place and inappropriate if the narrator is presumed to be modern-day.

Overall - I certainly couldn't say the book was strikingly original, and it has its flaws, but I did enjoy reading it. I'd recommend it for fans of the original Dracula who enjoy tributes to the classic tale.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book. As always, my opinions are solely my own. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
DNFed at 37%. And Lord, I'm surprised I made it that far.

Here's a list of issues I had with this book.

First off, the writing style is ridiculously difficult to read. It's like the author tried way too hard to exactly emulate the common writing styles of the book's time setting (19th Century) -- with the end result being a style that is largely inaccessible to the modern reader. It takes a substantial amount of effort to follow this story because of the style, and, quite frankly, that is not what I'm looking for in my usual modern read. If I want a challenging, classic-like book read, I'll read an actual classic instead of a modern-day imitation of one.

All around, the style choice was just very poor. Not only because it was so difficult but because it served to distance me from the main character in a way that made me feel...absolutely nothing for him. I didn't care about the protagonist at all because I consistently felt very far away from him.

Those issues alone were enough to turn me off this book very, very quickly.

But they were further exasperated by the...super-weird, awkward plot. The first 30% of the book (according to my Kindle) is like this strange, tacked-on, prologue-esque section that occurs before the actual plot of the book starts. It's like one super-long backstory that pretty much gives away all the mystery that could have existed in the main plot (that doesn't start for a third of the book). That's what it read like. It was...odd. It felt odd. It didn't read "right" to me at all. It was, quite possibly, the strangest structural choice I could have ever conceived for what was supposed to be a (paranormal) historical mystery.

Not a good experience.

Alll around, this book fell flat for me. The writing was hard to follow. The protagonist was hard to like. And the plot...I'm still not entirely sure how to describe that. It just didn't work for me.

Rating

2/5

____

... Disclosure

I received a free ebook copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'd read the first two of this series and enjoyed them before requesting this one through Early Reviewers. In the series featuring Charles Maddox, Lynn Shepherd turns British classics of the 19th Century into mysteries and has a detective of the era investigate them, and the results were quite interesting homages to the originals, as well as fairly decent mysteries in their own rights. I'd not read the third one, mostly because I'm not all that interested in the Romantic poets but more just because I'd never gotten around to it. But this one made sense without having read the third, and I suspect would be more or less understandable without having read any of the previous novels.

Personally, though, if I'd started with this installment, I'd not have wanted to go back to the others. This is primarily due to my aversion to serial killer novels, especially those featuring Jack-the-Ripper knockoffs. I mean, is it really necessary to feature dismembered women? In this case, there's an explanation that works decently, but it's still an irritating and off-putting trope, and one I really wish didn't occur so often.

In this case, the audacity of mingling a real-life (weird) scientific pioneer with the fictional Count Dracula kept me reading, and in the end I more or less enjoyed this one, despite the more disgusting elements. The mystery itself was a little unfair, but did a fine job of accounting logically for mythological elements. The characters weren't particularly engaging, but they weren't just stick figures, so all in all it wasn't hard to go along with the novel--and it was quite atmospheric, which helps.
  InfoQuest | Jul 27, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Summary: Detective Charles Maddox is hired by the University of Oxford to investigate the background of a possible donor to determine the suitability of the bequest. Maddox must travel to Austria to meet the Baron Von Reisenberg, and when he arrives, he cannot help but notice many odd goings on - dark legends surround the Baron, the common folk all seem strangely reticent to talk about him, and the gloomy environs of the castle give rise to a host of disturbing suspicions. While Charles does his best to avoid superstitious and supernatural thoughts, he soon finds himself threatened by what he's exposed about the Baron's true nature, and he returns to England nearly broken in mind and body, only to find that there's been a number of grisly murders that seem as though they may be connected to the horror he thought he'd left behind on the continent.

Review: Lynn Shepherd's books largely take the same form - she takes a classic piece of British literature and re-imagines it as a case in the files of Charles Maddox, her detective protagonist. This is clearly her Dracula book, which is one that perhaps best lends itself to a murder mystery, but also the one that may require the most re-imagining in order to have it fit into her "real" historical London. The Pierced Heart was a good mystery, with some things obvious to the reader (who has more information than Charles or the police, in the form of a second narrative from a young woman who has been captured and imprisoned), but some things still surprising as they're revealed. I did feel like it needed to be a little bit longer; there are some aspects, particularly regarding the Baron's plans, that needed some more explanation and development in the beginning, since by the time we reached the end there were some story threads that I felt didn't entirely connect. However, Shepherd's writing was as lovely as ever, effectively evoking the Gothic tone of her inspirations (which has been the case in her previous novels as well) while also maintaining an effectively creepy atmosphere - so effective, in fact, that there were times I didn't want to read this after dark. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This could be read independently of Shepherd's other novels; there are some connections regarding Maddox's personal life, but they're either explained in this novel, or are of small enough importance to the primary story so as not to render the book confusing for not having read its predecessors. I think fans of Dracula, Jack the Ripper stories, and historical mysteries should all find this novel worth a read. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jul 21, 2015 |
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I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow, but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion... --Bram Stoker, DRACULA
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For Elizabeth
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The train left Prague at 8:35 PM on 15 March, arriving at Vienna before noon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345545435, Hardcover)

The shadow of Bram Stoker’s Dracula looms large over the darkest mystery yet faced by Victorian detective Charles Maddox—as the acclaimed author of The Solitary House and A Fatal Likeness once again pays homage to a literary classic, in a chilling tale of superstition, dangerous science, and shocking secrets.
 
When an Austrian nobleman offers a substantial donation to the University of Oxford, Charles Maddox is called on to investigate the generous benefactor. It is a decidedly mundane task for the increasingly renowned criminal investigator, but Maddox welcomes the chance to trade London’s teeming streets for the comforts of a castle in the Viennese countryside. Comfort, however, is in short supply once Maddox steps onto foreign soil—and into the company of the mysterious Baron Von Reisenberg.
 
A man of impeccable breeding, the Baron is nonetheless the subject of frightened whispers and macabre legends among his countrymen. Though Maddox isn’t one to entertain supernatural beliefs, the dank halls and foreboding shadows of the castle begin to haunt his sleep with nightmares. But in the light of day the veteran detective can find no evidence of the sinister—until a series of disturbing incidents prove him gravely mistaken, and thrust Maddox into a harrowing quest to expose whatever evil lurks behind the locked doors of the Baron’s secretive domain. After a terrifying encounter nearly costs him his sanity, Maddox is forced to return home mentally defeated—and still pursued by the horror he’s unearthed.
 
London is on the verge of widespread panic, thanks to a string of gruesome murders committed by an elusive predator branded the Vampire. But there’s little doubt in Maddox’s mind who is responsible. And whether his enemy proves merely mortal—or something more—Maddox must finally end the monstrous affair . . . before more innocent blood is spilled.
 
Advance praise for The Pierced Heart
 
“Captures some of the best elements of Dracula, while at the same time creating a thrilling and absorbing crime novel.”—The Dracula Society
 
Praise for Lynn Shepherd
 
“Lynn Shepherd has a knack for setting literary murder puzzles.”The Scotsman
 
The Solitary House
 
“Dickens fans will rejoice. . . . [Lynn] Shepherd leaves the reader spellbound.”Booklist (starred review)
 
“[Shepherd’s] suspenseful story and winning prose ably serve her literary conceit.”—Associated Press
 
“Intellectually enthralling, with dark twists at every turn . . . a haunting novel that will have you guessing until the last pages.”Historical Novels Review
 
A Fatal Likeness
 
“Shepherd shines again in this superb Victorian thriller. . . . The novel works equally as a family story, a blend of horror and mystery.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“As a piece of literary detective work, it’s stimulating and hugely fun—even brilliant.”The Spectator
 
“A wonderfully ingenious novel: perceptive, gripping, and fascinating.”—Miranda Seymour, author of Mary Shelley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:05 -0400)

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