The Diabolical Miss Hyde
(Electric Empire #1)
Release: Feb. 10, 2015
Summary: Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous HenryReview: Dr. Eliza Jeckyll is a Steampunk CSI. (There are so many of my favorite things just in that sentence!) She has a dog-like clockwork assistant and UV goggles, though she doesn’t call them that, to help her find trace evidence at crime scenes. Her forensic techniques are surprising modern and familiar, though she laments that fingerprinting hasn’t been invented yet. She is not well-liked or respected on the police force or as a physician though. Both are fields that do not yet accept women readily, but her determination to do her job well and do it her own way is part of what makes her a likable heroine.
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 . . .
Eliza and her partner Inspector Griffin are searching for a serial killer dubbed “The Chopper” because he removes limbs from his victims. They’re joined by Captain Lafayette of the Royal Society, the group that enforces the country’s ban on magic. But Eliza’s not certain whether Lafayette’s interest is in her case or if he suspects that she is more than she seems.
Lizzy Hyde is Eliza’s shadow self, her uninhibited side that curses and drinks and flirts shamelessly with bad men. Lizzy is an almost constant presence in the back of Eliza’s mind, but she can take over completely when Eliza drinks the alchemical serum that releases her. Lizzy lives in a world very different from Eliza’s buttoned up, scientific one. It’s colorful and almost circus-like, filled with thieves and prostitutes and people who are not quite human enough for mainstream society. Lizzy feels at home among these outlaws and outcasts who wouldn’t give Eliza the time of day.
Magic and magical creatures still exist underground but are outlawed and persecuted. Lizzy suggests that the Fae used to be a regular part of the world, but have left, and people with too-pointy ears or webbed feet are all that remain of their influence. Eliza has heard legends of the Rat King who will one day return to overthrow the government. But it seems that there’s more to it than either of them know. They both learn a little more over the course of the book, which I can’t explain without spoilers, but it seems to be only the beginning. I loved the look into the hidden magical world and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out later in the series.
Even though I thought the world was fascinating, this book was a little bit slow starting for me. There are just a lot of elements that have to come together. The narration switches between Lizzy’s colorful first person accounts when she’s the dominant personality and the third person description of Eliza. This was an especially effective device when Lizzy was struggling to come out and the voice was shifting mid-sentence. I loved the way Eliza and Lizzy interacted once they realized they had to work together to catch the killer.
And Jeckyll and Hyde are not the only characters you might recognize from Victorian literature and/or classic horror films. One of them provided quite a surprising plot twist. I’m wondering if that trend will continue in later books as well - Viola Carr’s take on Dracula could be exceptional. I’m really excited to see what she does next.
Recommended for fans of: Serial killers and CSIs, Victorian literature and literary re-imaginings
ARC provided by the publisher