Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde

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 . . .

Firstly...I've never read nor seen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  About the closest I've gotten is the BBC mini-series starring James Nesbitt (Jekyll) and I don't remember that beyond thinking "gosh this is bloody" (I saw it before I saw Dexter.  Or Game of Thrones).  So I went into this book with really only a bare hint of knowledge for the original.  Given what I enjoyed most about this book was Lizzie, let's all just assume I'll never read the source material and move on.

In my initial thoughts on the book I remember noting how...uneasy I felt.  If you look at the cover that's obviously Lizzie portrayed there, its Lizzie the title refers to and its Lizzie who seems to be fun.  And she is.  Oh how she is.  Carr did a bit of a trick and had all of Lizzie's portions told in first person--further illustrating this is Lizzie's story, while Eliza's are in third person.  It makes for some confusing moments, especially in the latter half as Lizzie comes out to play more often and Eliza begins to have more stressful problems.

Lizzie is wild, she's reckless and brash and can take care of herself most of the time.  She knows low people and is fiercely protective of only one person in this world--Eliza.  She notions herself Eliza's big sister, her watchman and vengeful aide.  Eliza isn't weak, but she fears doing things that need doing.  She fears becoming like her father--a mad man who loses control and goes feral.  She garbs herself in dull clothes and prim manners to be taken seriously, but its Lizzie who helps her.  Whispering in her ear, taunting her at times or reprimanding her.  Warning her and cajoling her.  

Carr doesn't spare much in terms of grim realities of murder or of the time period.  Yes there's steam powered industry and yes the world developed differently, but its not too far out from what Victorian England was like in terms of social stratification or the dark underbelly. New toys, same tricks.  Interestingly for me was that though Eliza dwelt moreso in the darker side of the world and saw its the gruesome ends those in it met with, it was Lizzie who was constantly chiding her to think first.  Then again despite all signs otherwise its Lizzie who trusts first and Eliza who's paranoid.

I guessed at the killer (and the reasoning) fairly quickly, though I was quite shocked at how it all came together.  It would have been sad had the killer not been so damned creepy.  Character had ISSUES as a person.  

What made me uneasy was a certain part that's a spoiler so I'll be vague here--Eliza is the dominant personality, she uses a brew to keep Lizzie at bay for the most part.  That said Lizzie has her own ideas on life and from what I gathered she lived a rather more...robust social life then Eliza.  However, despite the superficial differences that occur from one to the other, they share a body.  The scene in question made me uncomfortable since it felt like something Lizzie should have at least consulted Eliza with.  The consequences would have affected them both.

Which on that train of thought, if Eliza got pregnant what would happen to the child as she switched from Eliza to Lizzie?  Or what if Lizzie got pregnant?  While they share a body it appeared as if there was certain superficial differences....though how far does that extend.  Different fingerprints?  Genetically would they register the same?  There's a character with extraordinary sense of smell--does Lizzie smell different from Eliza?  The same?  Similar but with a hint of something more?

These are the kind of questions that plagued me the further into the book I read and both girls feared being caught out (for different reasons)  Eliza has some amazing do-dads, is experimental and always trying new things (she kind of reminds me of Murdoch from "Murdoch Mysteries" actually), though the level of science (or more importantly how its stifled) would get in the way.

Then there's the matter of the ending.  I'm not entirely sure how to take Eliza's reaction.  The confusing mixture of emotions she exhibits (and Lizzie vaguely mentions) left me kind of cold.  I need more, equation does not compute, before I can really understand my jumble of feelings towards the book.  However Lizzie is wonderful and Carr has an engaging voice (though it did feel over long) with her characters all feeling different and layered.  I cautiously recommend with the caveat your mileage will vary I suspect.