What would happen if Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and the newspaper writers who chronicled Jack the Ripper threw Jack, Dracula, and Frankenstein into a pot and mixed them together? THE PIERCED HEART would happen, that’s what.
Lynn Shepherd has written what is essentially a mash-up crossover of those three modern-ish legends. There is a doctor/eccentric aristocrat who lives high in the mountains of Austria who does morally questionable, and generally repulsive, experiments with the goal of altering human life as we know it. There is a stand-in for Jonathan Harker, a fairly nosy ex-cop now working as a private detective who sticks himself in the center of all storylines – he being the main character in Shepherd’s book. Van Helsing himself makes an appearance to further the never exactly settled question of whether or not there actually was a vampire in London, and Austria. And the poorest women of London, the prostitutes, suffer the most as they are killed and mutilated in much the same way Jack the Ripper’s victims were.
It shouldn’t work. But it does.
Shepherd wrote the novel in second person, no doubt to seem more in time with Stoker and Shelley and the other novelists who wrote these stories then. Second person narratives are rare, but this works. The reader never feels like she’s being told just what to think about particular events. It’s more like Shepherd is rather helpfully pointing out a point which might otherwise have been missed. It really does work, because it’s used sparingly.
What doesn’t work so well is the threads that are left loose at the end. The finale is abrupt and the epilogue makes it more so. It would have been easy to read a few more chapters to see things done properly.
But I finished the book, so I give it three stars.
(I received a copy of THE PIERCED HEART through NetGalley & Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest & original review.)