The Pierced Heart, A New Twist on an Old Tale

20707936The Pierced Heart
Delacorte Press, 2014

I’m sure anyone who has been enjoying Lynn Shepherd’s Charles Maddox series will agree that with each book her skills as a writer become stronger and stronger. The “Pierced Heart” is her best effort to date. Not only is Shepherd coming into her own as a writer, her twist on Dracula is a fast paced, engaging ride. I read it in one sitting.

Charles, our reluctant hero, visits the estate of an Austrian nobleman on behalf of Oxford. Charles is asked to determine the man’s character after the Austrian offers a substantial donation to the University. Once there, Charles quickly finds the man is not all that he seems. There are some serious questions to be answered. Is he a truly a nobleman who has the means and time to devote to natural philosophy or is he a mad scientist? As the story moves from Austria to the streets of London, Charles is compelled to find the answers.

Shepherd follows the original Dracula plot to a point; it is here where her imagination shines. Just when we readers think we know where she is going, the story takes a decided turn. There are just enough twists to keep readers guessing while retaining the original unsettling mood.

Shepherd doesn’t just give us a twist on the vampire story; she offers comment on Victorian values and how they affected women. Not only were they victims of violent times, they were at the mercy of the misogynist attitude towards them. Women were denied voices, no matter how loudly they screamed out in the night.

My only complaint is the inconsistency in the narration. I would have liked it if Shepherd had kept to one style. The abrupt change pulled me out of the story. But once the initial shock was over, I was quickly pulled back in.

With “The Pierced Heart” we finally have a three-dimensional character in Charles. Readers learn more about his back-story and two secrets are revealed. Though one is something Charles seems to be hiding from himself. The novel ends with a twist for our hero. There is yet another question to be answered. I can only hope Shepherd shares this answer with her readers very soon.

I’d like to thank Librarything for the opportunity to read this book.

The Yard, A Review of Alex Grecian’s Novel

Hello dear Readers,

As you know, I do not post many books reviews on my blog, but I am hoping this book becomes the topic of many conversations. If you have read it I would love to hear about it, and if you have an opinion on the role of editors I would love to hear that too.

Poor Walter Day, he may be well over his head when it comes to his new job. It is the second day for the newly appointed detective, he is unsure if he is qualified to be a member of Scotland Yard’s “Murder Squad”, the public no longer respects the police and now one of their own has been found murdered.

This the emotional setting Alex Grecian sets up in his debut novel The Yard.  The year is 1889, Jack the Ripper’s killings have mysteriously ended, but for Scotland Yard new terror is setting in. Grisly murders are on the rise and it seems to those involved in the seedy side of life England is becoming more and more dangerous. The police are under staffed and over worked, and forensic science is it its infancy; crimes are hard to solve, even as the public demands answers.

Grecian plunges his readers into the heart of Victorian England, from its dirty streets, to poverty stricken inhabitants, he leaves no gritty detail out. All too often authors pick a place or time for their setting without doing much research. Grecian has done his homework, you cannot help but feel the grime and hopelessness of the era.

The characters Grecian introduces to us and well flushed out, though my favorite is not his main character, William Day, no I was for more interested in Dr. Kingsley a self appointed medical examiner who is at the forefront of forensic science.  If this series is to continue I hope Grecian recognizes that Kingsley may be a better  protagonist than Day. It is really Kingsley who drives the story along.

I picked the book up on a Friday and had it done by Saturday night; this is not a book that is easy to put down. The action  is set at just the right pace you don’t feel exhausted yet it keeps you hooked , you will want to keep reading if only to see the killer(s) come to justice.  If you start this book late in the day be prepared to read long into the night. I was up late because I just had to finish it!

There has been some talk regarding Grecian’s decision to quickly let the readers know who the killer is. I had no such qualms, as I found the killer to be creepy; he gave the book its edge. My problem with the book is that as we enter deeper and deeper into the killer’s mind, we are given clues that there is more going on. We have to ask, who else has he killed? Sadly, this is not resolved to my satisfaction. The one other issue I have, is when the killer and the detective meet. If you think you may have missed something rest assured, you did not. This is an error on the editor’s part. I have come across this when editing a book. The author may know how it is two characters find themselves in the same place but fail to write about it. It is up to a good editor to point this out.

There are a few scenes that did not work for me, but without getting into spoiler alert territory, which I hate, I can’t go into. Again, a good editor could have warned Grecian he was turning some of his characters into Keystone cops; the killer at times seemed to be crying out “catch me” but the police fail to put the pieces in place.  Having said this, I still highly recommend the book, if nothing else for Grecian’s flawless look at Victorian England and the birth of modern police forensics. I am looking forward to his next adventure.

Thank you to Putnam Books and Librarything’s Early Reviewer program for allowing me to review this book.