Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT 1800s shipping #HistFic The Likeness by @carver22

Today’s team review is from Anita, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Anita has been reading The Likeness by Bill Kirton


Fitting The Likeness into a genre seemed difficult at first. I thought it was a mystery thriller, but then realised it was a romance too. It is beautifully written, so should appeal to a wide range of readers.

John Grant is the first person you meet in The Likeness, and he has several threads to his story. A woodcarver with a flair for detection, he is a complex and fascinating character whose relationship with Helen Anderson was enjoyed in the author’s previous work, The Figurehead.

John is also part of the local lifeboat team, regularly rescuing the crews of stricken ships from the sea. The book opens with such a rescue, but there is an unexpected victim on the beach that day, a well- dressed and attractive woman.  The fact that one of her legs was damaged could mean she hadn’t walked to her death and John’s curiosity drives him to solve this mystery and somehow restore the woman’s dignity.

Helen is the daughter of a wealthy shipping company owner, determined to make her mark in a man’s world. Her relationship with John is handled with a gentle touch with just a hint of their growing passion for each other. I particularly enjoyed the chemistry between the two of them.

Set in the 1800s, this story describes the period very well, and we learn just how difficult it was to be a forward-thinking, independent woman back then. Something Helen handles with ease. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she manages to get her own way and without ruffling too many feathers in the process.

I particularly enjoyed Helen’s stubborn determination against the prejudices of the time and her father’s disapproval, to travel alone on one of his ships. She has a very good reason for doing this and eventually gets her way!

As a bit of a craftsperson myself, I also enjoyed the different descriptions of the joys of woodcarving, the wood used and the techniques involved.

John Grant is a special man, skilled as a wood carver but also skilled as a detective. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Likeness, and as I haven’t yet read The Figurehead, this will be something I remedy and soon.

Book description

Aberdeen, 1841. Woodcarver John Grant has an unusual new commission – creating a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group. Simultaneously, he’s also trying to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman, whose body has been found in the filth behind the harbour’s fish sheds.

His loving relationship with Helen Anderson, which began in The Figurehead, has grown stronger but, despite the fact that they both want to be together, she rejects the restrictions of conventional marriage, in which the woman is effectively the property of the husband.

As John works on the figurehead, Helen persuades her father, a rich merchant, to let her get involved in his business, allowing her to challenge yet more conventions of a male-dominated society.

The story weaves parallels between the stage fictions, Helen’s business dealings, a sea voyage, stage rehearsals, and John’s investigations. In the end, the mystery death and the romantic dilemma are both resolved, but in unexpected ways.

About the author

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards – ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ was the overall winner of the Humor category and ‘The Darkness’ was runner up in the Mystery category. His historical mystery, ‘The Figurehead’, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.

He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.

He’s also been a TV presenter and a voice-over artist and his scripts for corporate and educational DVDs and videos have won awards in the UK and USA. He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews.

Most of his novels are set in the north east of Scotland. ‘Material Evidence’, ‘Rough Justice’, the award-winning ‘The Darkness’, ‘Shadow Selves’ and ‘Unsafe Acts’ all feature DCI Jack Carston. ‘The Figurehead’ is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840. The award-winning ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’, is a spoof spy/crime novel also set in Scotland. His comic fantasy novella, ‘Alternative Dimension’ satirises online role-playing games.

His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006. IN 2010, one was also chosen for the ‘Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7’ anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski.

His non-fiction output includes ‘Brilliant Study Skills’, ‘Brilliant Essay’, ‘Brilliant Dissertation’, ‘Brilliant Workplace Skills’ and ‘Brilliant Academic Writing. He also co-wrote ‘Just Write’ with Kathleen McMillan.

He writes books for children. ‘Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy’ was published as a tribute to his great niece, Daisy Warn, who lived for just 16 weeks. Proceeds from its sales go to a children’s hospice in South-West England. ‘The Loch Ewe Mystery’ is a stand-alone novel for children aged 7-12 and he’s preparing a series about a grumpy male fairy called Stanley who lives under a cold, dripping tap in his bedroom.

Bill Kirton

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