book reviews by Althea

The Pierced Heart – Lynn Shepherd ***

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‘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.


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