The Solitary House: A Novel

The Solitary House: A Novel - Lynn Shepherd This was the first of Lynn Shepherd's books that I've read, but I will be seeking out her debut novel ("Murder in Mansfield Park") and looking forward to any others that she produces. Why? Because this book was brilliant.Charles Maddox, the protagonist, is a former detective with the Metropolitan police force. He's now working privately for a wealthy client who is trying to find his grandchild -- a girl who was born in a workhouse. We watch Charles go about trying to resolve his case ... and become embroiled in another ... through the third-person present tense prose. The style lends an immediacy to the events and brings us directly into the squalid world of Seven Dials, the elegance of Lincoln Inn's Fields ... and other locations written about in the pages of Dickens' work.Every time Charles interviews a witness, he or she turns up dead in a most spectacular manner ... and in a way guaranteed to lay suspicion on Charles' doorstep. It doesn't matter whether they were tanners, prostitutes or gentlemen ... they're gone. Eventually, Charles pieces the particulars together and then is himself at tremendous risk.Admirers of Mr. Dickens will find characters they know from "Bleak House" (and those fond of Wilkie Collins will catch the homage to "The Woman in White"), drawn with additional layers upon their characters and made most realistic.Some of the most poignant scenes in the book involve Charles' relationship with the great-uncle after whom he is named. Uncle Charles was himself a detective during the Regency period (I surmise that he is the protagonist in Shepherd's first work) and is now suffering what we now understand as Alzheimer's disease ... complete with "sundowning." Difficult to read (from an emotional perspective) at times due to the realism.As I said at the start, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Highly recommended for those who love Dickens, historical fiction and/or a good "whodunnit."