Feature book: The Diabolical Miss Hyde
This book has wonderful steampunk elements starting with Dr Jekyll’s various instruments, her ingenious assistant Hippocrates, the Royal Society’s peacekeeping automatons and the large-scale reanimation machinery à la Dr Frankenstein. Imagine Dr Eliza Jekyll (using pop culture analogies) as a buttoned-up, less manic, more approachable Sherlock Holmes, with Miss Lizzie Hyde as a sassy but more wench-y Irene Adler of the recent Holmes movies dressed in steampunk finery—phew, it deserves girly squees.
Tending a little to the dark side, the book keeps you on edge, guessing who will find out Eliza/Lizzie’s secrets. Hippocrates, in keeping with the pop culture analogies, is a delightful steampunk version of a semi-intelligent assistant—a walking iPhone with a dog companion personality or possibly a forerunner of K9 for those of a Doctor Who bent. The story has a BBC medical examiner drama feel with Dr Eliza investigating murders in her police doctor persona in the vein of an emerging forensics science. Think Ripper Street. There are sly and not-so-sly nods to Dracula with the blood-craving Miss Lucy in the mental asylum and Doctor Frankenstein in an ‘animation’ machine using the new fangled electricity, which is displayed at a public event.
The, pardon the expression, shades of grey of the female protagonist are enjoyable. She’s a complex character with a public past due to her parents and the usual problems of an intelligent woman working in an occupation generally considered male in nature. The world has that feel where the advancement of knowledge is restricted and controlled by the powerful, and it is illustrated by the automaton police units of the Royal Society, disciplining science heretics. And that threat looms large over Eliza’s dual nature and some of her tools and methods.
The book falls more on the mystery side with romantic elements rather than a straight romance. However, there’s plenty of staring at and into each other’s eyes, especially with the frisson (love that word) between Eliza/Lizzie and at least three gentlemen, which sounds excessive but isn’t really—you’ll just have to read it to find out why. 😉 The gentlemen are all interesting and compelling characters. Wild Johnny is fae and charming, Captain Remy Lafayette hides a hairy side under his suave, handsome exterior, and Mr Malachi Todd, well, he has the knife addiction of Jack the Ripper with the superior intelligence, charm and joie de vivre of Red from The Blacklist. I have one very small nit-pick. Enjoying the steampunk machinery so much, I thought it would have been nice to have a little more information about the device leaving the melted stone.
However, there’s nothing more fascinating than a book with a seemingly simple surface but rife with a seething underbelly that makes you think, especially about the nature of attraction, addiction and compulsion. This is my favourite book in this genre and one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gina
A review copy of this book was provided by the author.