As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by Simon &
Schuster, 2 July 2015. ISBN: 978-1-47113-608-5 (PB)
Research is an essential element of all historical fiction; making sure
the historical details are right ensures credibility and a tightly woven background.
Making it feel right is the really difficult part: what sorts the
amateurs from the truly talented writers.
On this evidence, Lloyd
Shepherd falls firmly in the truly talented category. He weaves a complex plot
with a supernatural edge, and sets it against several different backgrounds,
exploring various less than savoury aspects of early 19th century
life – but most of all he creates an atmosphere in keeping with the times,
which not only draws the reader deep into the murky world of dissolute behaviour,
abuse and prostitution he portrays, but also reflects the sense ofalmost stifling frustration which surrounds
the protagonists as they battle with forces they do not quite understand.
The historical detail is
drawn in detail, with a great deal of colourful description; an afterword
explains how much of it is genuine and how much the author’s invention, but the
two are inextricable in the complex narrative. The prevailing attitude of the
time towards witchcraft has a large part to play, as does the experimental
approach towards treatment of mental health problems, and it all carries a
sense of reality.
unconnected storylines run parallel for most of the book, presented from four
viewpoints and in as many different styles. One follows two young women
confined in a mental institution, one severely troubled, the other haunted by
delusions which she knows aren’t real. Another explores the causes of a number
of disturbing incidents at the country home of a dissolute peer and his mistress.
In a third, a series of bizarre locked-room murders baffles a senior magistrate
tasked with investigating them. In a world long before mobile phones, or indeed
any swift method of communication, the links between them take a long time to
The result is a dense piece
of storytelling which echoes some of the novelists who came later in the same
century: Dickens, Wilkie Collins, with a nod towards Thomas Love Peacock, Maria
Edgeworth and Bram Stoker. It isn’t an easy or comfortable read, but Shepherd’s
deft hand with character and plot ensures that it quickly becomes a compelling
one. I found a few chapters at a time were enough, but I was soon drawn back
for another helping, partly because I found I cared about the fate of the
viewpoint characters, and also simply because I wanted to know how it all tied
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Lloyd Shepherdworked as a trade journalist and a digital product manager for the likes
of the Guardian, the BBC, Yahoo, Channel 4 and Financial Times Newsletters.
Lloyd lives in South London.
His first book, The English Monster,
came out in 2012. His second, The
Poisoned Island, followed in 2013. They're both set in London in the early
19th century, they both feature a proto-detective named Charles Horton and his
magistrate John Harriott, and they both combine historical fiction with
murder-mystery and a good healthy dash of the supernatural. They've been called
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.