Death and the Sisters (A Mary Shelley Mystery)

Written by Heather Redmond
Review by Janice Derr

Sixteen-year-old Mary, the daughter of famed authors Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, is a natural storyteller with a vivid imagination but feels her talents are being wasted behind the counter of her father’s bookshop. It is 1814, and she craves excitement and the chance to use her brain for something other than waiting on the few customers she sees each day. One night, she sneaks into the store after hours, looking for a book to read, and discovers a body on the floor. The dead man has been stabbed and is wearing a coat that looks exactly like the one worn by her family’s frequent dinner guest, the attractive and engaging young poet Percy Shelley. Thrilled by the danger surrounding her macabre discovery, she and her stepsister, Jane, join together to discover the identity of the murderer.

The idea of exploring the life of a young Mary Godwin before she weds Shelley and becomes the author of Frankenstein is full of potential, but the novel only partially lives up to its promising premise. The mystery is challenging to follow, and the chapters alternate between first and third person, making it difficult to discern who is narrating. The characters are also hard to root for. Mary and Percy are often cruel and petty to others. And the third sister, Mary’s half-sibling Fanny, adds little to the story as she mopes through scenes, never to be included in her sisters’ investigation. There are so many directions future novels could go. I hope the next book in the series develops the characters more.