In Lynn Shepherd’s A Fatal Likeness, detective Charles Maddox has been called to the Shelley family estate, currently the home of troubled poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s son, daughter-in-law, and wife Mary, the author of Frankenstein. They are desperately trying to keep secrets from coming out that could completely ruin the reputations of Percy, who is deceased, and Mary. Charles soon discovers that his seriously ill great uncle was involved somehow in the Shelleys' lives, and based on his missing diary pages, it seems like the uncle wants to erase this from the record.
There is much more to this novel….TOO much more. Just when you think you have your head wrapped around everything, Shepherd adds another mystery into the mix. I applaud her for trying to construct a multi-layered story, but the hallmark of a novel with depth is that things easily fall into place at the end. That didn’t happen here, and I was left with far more questions than answers.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it always makes me very uneasy when authors try to fill in the gaps too liberally. Even if you know the general biography of a historical figure, I think authors have to be responsible in their writing in order to not damage the person's legacy. Shepherd makes the Shelleys do terrible things, but in her author notes, says that much of the novel is based on her own imagination. That, to me, is walking a fine line.