Wench Review of...

The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr


Readers, I'm going to tell you right off the bat. I highly recommend this book. I'm not going to beat around the bush and keep you waiting till after the cut like I usually do (I'm usually so mean!) 

I literally picked it up on a whim. I was making my way through countless terrible erotica and I NEEDED something different. And voila! There it was. I won't lie. The cover kinda spoke to me. But it was fate. I'm a bit of an ass when it comes to a retelling of one of my favorite books. I won't usually pick them up unless they come HIGHLY recommended. I don't know what it was that made me go "You. You're the book I'm reading next." *cough Destiny cough* but here we are.

Click through to read my mostly non-spoilery review!






So, honestly, I did not think I'd enjoy it. I thought it was going to be just another Paranormal Romance book disguised as something more. But the second I read the opening paragraph, I knew, at the very least, this would be interesting :
“In London, we've got murderers by the dozen. Rampsmen, garroters, wife beaters and baby farmers, poisoners and pie makers and folk who’ll crack you over the noddle with a ha’penny cosh for the sake of your flashy watch chain and leave your meat for the rats. Never mind what you read in them penny dreadfuls: there ain’t no romance in murder. 

But every now and again, we gets us an artist.”

It starts with Lizzie's point of view. And it couldn't be more different that what I imagined it was going to be. Lizzie Hyde is Eliza Jekyll's second self. Eliza is the daughter of the infamous Henry Jekyll. And the story is set twenty years after his "death".

What I found interesting about Lizzie Hyde was that she did not seem as repulsive, depraved, evil, or twisted as Edward Hyde... yet! We often misconstrue the story of Jekyll and Hyde to be one of good vs. evil, when that simply wasn't the case. Jekyll was by no means all good (he TRIED doing good at one point in the book to keep Hyde at bay, but that didn't quite work out because his intentions were clearly selfish. Also he came up with the potion so he could DO unsavory things without compromising his reputation in society. So not exactly a stellar gentleman.) But Hyde was most definitely all bad. 

Edward Hyde gave everyone the creeps. 
Lizzie is kind at times, vulnerable, capable of forming bonds with others on her own, and seems to worry about Eliza. She's just more sensual, loud, alive, and more of a risk taker than Eliza. It's a very interesting dynamic between the two. Almost like being the sisters they are referred to by a certain someone in the book. It's definitely worth reading the series just to see how their relationship will progress. And whether they are doomed to go down the same path as their predecessors. 

Eliza is a forensics analyst, and helps the Yard with murders, in this case, particularly gruesome murders where young women have had body parts chopped off. Their bodies left arranged in certain ways for the police to find. Despite her unusual job, her unique pet, and her love for science and gadgets, Eliza strives to stay out of trouble and live her life by social propriety.  A lot of this has to do with the Royal Society, which polices magic and sorcery in Viola Carr's steampunk London. And the delicious Captain Lafayette from the Society who seems to be lurking around EVERY corner. But it probably has more to do with Eliza's fear of Lizzie taking over if she indulges in baser passions and hobbies.


Lizzie likes to have fun. 
I thought the two very different points of view would annoy me, but far from it. It was fascinating being in two minds that were so very different, but that existed in the same person. I also found it worth noting that, while Lizzie seems very present even when Eliza is in charge, Eliza sort of disappears when Lizzie is in charge and she struggles to recall details of what occurred when she comes to as herself.  There seems to be some sort of power imbalance there that I'm sure we'll find out more about.

I liked both Eliza and Lizzie, maybe Eliza just a wee bit more. Mostly because I find her internal dilemmas fascinating, and her interest in violent crime intriguing. And also because she is not as meek and mild as she'd like everyone to believe!

"I am not a "lady doctor,"" she interrupted coldly. "I am a doctor, no more and no less. And if you persist in pestering me, you'll be the one in distress. Good day, sir."
The horrible serial murders are at the center of this book, and somehow, everything appears to be connected. You will not get bored reading it. From the murder scenes, to Bedlam (always horribly interesting), the courtrooms, to the streets at night, it's a riveting read. I've always loved books which have been able to show Victorian London as more than just either it's glitzy ballrooms or dirty, rat infested streets. My favorite books are the ones that show how interconnected it all is, how it's actually just one big gray area without being demarcated by a solid line dividing the classes. And this does that. It's murky, gritty, stark, and brilliant. Some of the night time scenes were so well written, I could SEE Lizzie walking through the streets at night, splashing in puddles, and the other people of the night trudging about around her, the occasional knife or blade glinting in the dark, as clearly as I could see the world around me. 

All that being said, my absolute favorite part of the story was every interaction between Eliza and Malachi Todd. (Their first scene together was my Quote of the Day a while back.)And man, I did not expect that. I've never been a Hannibal+Clarice shipper. I never got the hows and whys of them ending up together. Their ending definitely made a weird sort of sense. But I never felt their connection to that extent, despite being a huge fan of the books. In this, I sooooo felt Todd and Eliza's connection. It practically sizzled off page! I felt the sparks. As scary, intense, and frightening as they were. And I'm almost ashamed to admit it! I can no longer sit on my high horse and say things like "Eww! He's a psychopath! Gross, how can you ship him with ANYONE!?! Let alone want him to share breathing space with the main character." 
I felt the need to confess after meeting Todd.
 And I'm not even Catholic. 
It's not that I condone what he's done.. and what he will continue to do given the chance. It's not even that I want him free to woo Eliza or anything. It's that he is a VERY compelling character. One of those characters that seem to exist almost outside a moral plane. The energy he gives off is electric and impossible to ignore. His reactions to Eliza are almost mesmerizing. Fascinating. A morbidly romantic figure. He seems to really SEE into her soul. And it both terrifies and compels Eliza. And I need to read more. Brava, Ms. Carr. 
"Alone at last. How are you, Eliza? You and your shadow?" His knowing gaze made her flinch. 
The thing that makes it even harder for the reader to distance themselves from Todd and maybe look at him differently is Eliza's response to him. And the tiny bits and pieces of their past interactions that you find out just intrigue you more. She's drawn to him like a moth to a VERY dangerous flame, and god help me, maybe I want to see her just a little singed.


Live a little, Eliza.

Captain Remy Lafayette from the Royal Society is also pretty intriguing, and he shakes up Eliza and Lizzie's lives in different ways. He also seems to have a dark secret of his own! And while I find him interesting enough, Eliza doesn't appear too interested. Lizzie on the other hand, very much is.

Everything seems to be such a mess in Eliza's life. From her and Todd drawn to each other like self destructive magnets, her secret which seems to be in serious danger of being found out, Lizzie's entanglement with Remy, her mysterious "benefactor" A.R. Everything. But I found it all riveting. Like watching an avalanche I couldn't look away from. As soon as I turned that last page (those last couple pf chapters.. .guys....) I was on Amazon trying to one click buy the next one! And was devastated that it wasn't out yet. But I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, if only for more dark, twisted, inexplicably intense Todd/Eliza interactions.

This story was an amazing blend of so many things I love. Part Hannibal (the book, and in some cases, Bryan Fuller's series.. those gruesome murder scenes are definitely something he'd approve of), part Jekyll & Hyde, part Penny Dreadful (the original stories, and the TV series), part Frankenstein, and all sorts of awesome steampunk and mystery thriller goodness! (Also, what Whovian DIDN'T think of K9 every time Hippocrates was on page?) All the interesting references to other horrific characters from classic literature! Am I the only one who can totally see Tim Burton and Bryan Fuller collaborating and translating this to our TV screens? 

This Wench Rates it :


Comments

  1. Great review Zee. I really want to read this book now as it sounds interesting. I love books that actually make you feel like you are really at the scene the story takes place in.

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