Shepherd, Lynn - 'The Pierced Heart'
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. 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 him 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 defeated and still pursued by the horror he's unearthed.
Owing to a string of gruesome murders committed by an elusive predator branded the Vampire, London is on the verge of widespread panic. 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.
The chapters about Charles' investigation are sandwiched between chapters from the journal of Lucy, a young woman from Vienna who helps her father with occult shows in the theatres of Europe. Although at first the two parts of the story seem unrelated, the author manages to wind it all together at the end.
I've reviewed a number of Lynn Shepherd's novels. She does such a great job of refreshing - with tongue decidedly in cheek - classic Victorian literature, in a way that makes you fall back in love with the original even as you enjoy her new take. I'm not sure that this one is quite as successful as the previous ones. I'd have preferred a story just focusing on Charles Maddox whom we have got to know in the previous stories such as TOM-ALL-ALONE'S and A TREACHEROUS LIKENESS. I very much enjoyed those previous books and I hope that Ms Shepherd will write similar ones in the future.
Terry Halligan, England