The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
The Diabolical Miss Hyde is a great steampunk fantasy that harkens back heavily to the classic gothic novels, yet retains a modern sensibility. It’s wildly entertaining and yet has some deep messages if you look for them. Though we’ve not read all of the steampunk offerings that have come out lately, of those we have, this is one of our favorites.
Publisher’s Description: In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching “the Chopper” could make Eliza’s career–or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.
When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.
Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .
Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!)
Ooh, feeling competitive, are we? Yes, I loved it, actually. I think even Stevenson would be proud of how well it stuck to the themes of his novel while also telling an original story. What was your favorite part?
You know I’m not one for the classics, so you’ll have to excuse my inability to compare. However, I LOVE where Eliza goes to the asylum and meets again with Jack. That’s not my only favorite, mind you.
Speaking of Jack, did you get the feeling we missed a short story about Razor Jack and Eliza’s encounter with him? I think most of the pertinent details are conveyed in the book, but as often as Eliza’s relationship with Razor Jack is referenced and used, I really want more of the details. I didn’t see anything on Miss Carr’s website indicating there was a short story anywhere, but if it’s out there, I want to find it.
Wow, Eliza didn’t even make the list? I love Hippocrates. The animals always get top priority with me. And I’m really curious about Eliza’s fascination with Malachi Todd. Now that he’s out of Bedlam, I wonder what he’ll do next. In reality, Eliza’s fascination with such a person would get her killed; thank goodness this isn’t reality. And that’s six, by the way, not three.
Yeah, I know it’s six. Can’t help it. Eliza was fine, but I liked the others MUCH more. Lizzie & Johnny-I love their vernacular. It would be so fun to create a Pinterest casting board for all the characters.
Nervous Nellie says…
This was an awesome ride. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked up this book. I know it’s stupid, but the whole Dr. Jekyll/Miss Hyde thing didn’t even glimmer in my mind. If I would have read the cover, I would have had an idea. If I would have read the ENTIRE description, I would have had an idea. I was impulsive and hit the “buy it now” button very quickly WITHOUT my normal research and careful scouring of the internet to find out all I can before I started. I, as you well know, do not buy a book without a through investigation…..except this time. What could have been a disaster turned out dynamite! I can say that I was so far from being disappointed it was not even a speck on the horizon. The story was a simple serial killer mystery with Dr. Jekyll being the forensic investigator in a Victorian Steampunk England. A scandalous woman scientist (OMG!) working with the Met. Golly, the horror!
The characters were very well put together. Eliza and Lizzie were two complete characters which was impressive. I would love to hear this in audio. However, if you think it stops at being steampunk fantasy, let me blow your mind. There were werewolves, The Rat King, Fae and all manner of creatures that had no names. It had gear and steam driven creatures like Hippocrates, Eliza’s little dog companion. (I really need one of those) I can’t say enough good about this book. It was a twisty ride and the secrets revealed were truly kept under wraps until the last minute. I didn’t guess a thing.
There was no cliffhanger, but there WAS an interesting proposition. *giggle* Maybe romance to come? This was a singular inventive story and I enjoyed it immensely. If you like a good steampunk serial killer investigation with a bit of Fatal Attraction thrown in, this is the story you want to pick up. I will absolutely look for the next in the series that will release in October 2015.
The Diabolical Miss Hyde is very nearly a sequel to “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” set in an alternative, steampunk London. It explores many of the themes of the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson – the duality of human nature, and the oppressiveness of class expectations in Victorian England – while addressing the additional oppressiveness of being female.
Miss Eliza Jekyll, daughter of scientist Henry Jekyll, lives alone under the care of a guardian to whom her father’s entire estate has been willed—she owns nothing of her own. She works both at Bethlem insane asylum and as a forensic doctor for the police, though her position at either is precarious because she is a female in a non-traditional female role for the time. At the hospital, at least, she is suffered only because she is Henry’s daughter.
Eliza’s “sister,” Lizzy Hyde, is her shadow – the dark and angry side, the side that wants to drink and cavort, be sexy and brave, and stand up for her rights. Eliza wears grey dresses while Lizzy wears red; Eliza is prim and proper while Lizzy dances and sings and speaks her mind in public. I really enjoy how the author indicates who is speaking: Lizzy or Eliza. Lizzy’s parts are written in first person and in a cockney dialect. Eliza’s parts are written in third person and are typically very prim. One can very nearly hear the clipped sounds of her proper British accent.
While sometimes Eliza and Lizzy are at odds with each other, during the book, they also come to depend on each other, being strong where the other is weak, defending each other, even developing some affection for each other. Toward the end of the book, Eliza is encouraged to let Lizzy out once in a while, not keep her so tightly controlled, for her own sanity as well as Lizzy’s. I think Carr is taking Stevenson’s exploration of the duality of human nature one step further, saying that we need both sides of our nature to survive, and that they need not always be seen as good and evil.
Carr also explores the question of who the monsters really are. Nearly every character in the story is revealed to have two sides, though maybe not as literally as Eliza. I don’t want to give away any of the surprises, but the idea here is that people are rarely who you think they are, and they are rarely all good or all evil.
I absolutely love the nods to the original story and the references to Frankenstein as well. The backstory with Newton, Faraday, and the Royal Society is very interesting and I look forward to hearing more of that. I think I was most impressed, however, by reading the Author’s Note. Miss Carr did her research! While I’m not thoroughly familiar with English history of the time, it was fascinating to me to read how much of real history was woven into this book, even if as the basis for the alternate timeline. As a lover of history, I really appreciate the effort to be authentic in some respects.
If you aren’t interested in any of the thematic or historical aspects, this novel still succeeds in pure entertainment. The murder mystery is really good; the descriptions of the steampunk technology create a wonderful mental picture; and I just love Hippocrates, Eliza’s mechanical pet. Of course, I always love the pets. The characters feel real, the conflict feels real, and it’s very easy to care about Eliza, Lizzy, and all the characters in Carr’s world.
There did not seem to be a resolution to the situation between Eliza and the Royal Society, however, which makes me believe there will be another novel in the series. I have confirmed on Amazon that The Devious Dr. Jekyll is due out in October of this year. I think I’m going to go preorder it right now. In the meantime, I’m checking out my options for audiobook editions of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” I want to refresh myself on the story so I don’t miss any more details or references that Miss Carr might choose to include. I’m pretty sure this series will be one of my favorites for the year.
Oh, Miss Carr, might there be an audio version of the book in the works? I would LOVE listening to this in audio.
If you like this book, try:
- London Steampunk series by Bec McMaster
- The Crown & Key series by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
- The Parasol Protectorate and the Custard Protocol by Gail Carriger