I have long been a fan of horror tales and gothic stories. They made up the bulk of my reading once the obsession with Enid Blyton wore off and classics, such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, have long been favourites. So when i heard about Craig Russell’s latest offering, a fictionalised look at the story that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, I was more than a little intrigued. My thanks to publisher Constable for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
From international bestselling author Craig Russell comes a modern Gothic masterpiece.
Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.
When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.
He must find the killer, or lose his mind.
A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.
History, crime, a gothic edge and a sense of the occult. What is not to love about Hyde? It certainly ticked all of the boxes for me, keeping me engrossed in the story of Captain Edward Henry Hyde, Superintendent for the Edinburgh City police. Drawing upon the central theme of Stevenson’s work – an exploration of the human mind and the duality of our personality – the author entertains readers with a story that is full of tension, steeped in mystery and a chilling atmosphere, topped off with a fair enough spattering of gruesome murders for which our eponymous hero finds himself under suspicion. This is, in essence, a murder mystery but with a twist and with rich and vivid imagery that transports readers to 1880’s Edinburgh.
Hyde is a character who commands attention. It is made clear from the off that his stature and his countenance cause trepidation in those around him, that there is something about him that sets others on edge from the moment they see him. In many ways, this does come through in his character too, something quite stark in his persona when we truly meet him that had me, as a reader, at once on high alert. And yet his was a character I quickly warmed to. Yes, there were major question marks over his situation, the episodes that he suffered from which caused him to lose time and recollection, but I felt I trusted him which I knew from the start was a very clever ploy by the writer. It was, afterall, the central theme of the novel. That sense that it was possible for two very separate personalities to exist within one body – one good and one evil – and there was every possibility that we were only privy to the point of view of Hyde’s more amiable side, if amiable is the right way to describe his character. To find the answer to that, you will need to read the book for yourself, but I really did like Hyde’s character, his strong sense of right and wrong, at least in his conscious mind.
The landscape that Craig Russell portrays for readers is of the dark and secretive Edinburgh, a city awash with secret guilds and dark history. This is gothic mystery at it’s best. Not only is the setting perfect – and let’s face it, can you think of a better cast city than Edinburgh with its secret vaults, lost streets and ghostly legends for creating an sense of the otherworld and of dark obsessions – the atmosphere that enshrouds the city lends itself to that all important suspense and mystery. There is a chill to almost every page, and we are faced with almost more questions than answers, a blend of murder, missing persons and the occult keeping me completely engaged in the story. There is an almost ritualistic quality to the murders, and the haunting nightmares that afflict Hyde draw us constantly back to Scottish folklore and legend. With a myriad of suspects, including Hyde himself, the truth is kept just ever distant from the reader right until the last and I admit that in spite of everything, I really did not expect what came to pass.
Craig Russell has done a fine job of examining the very essence of human nature and the condition that, today, would be recognised as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or multiple personality disorder if you are slightly more old school. In the period that the book is set, the idea of this kind of psychosis as a diagnosed and manageable condition was still in its infancy, so that sense of Hyde not really understanding the condition that affects him rings true. The notion is continually in play, even if we don’t realise it, but it does not overwhelm the story, it only enhances it.
I really don’t have the words to do this book justice and much that I would want to say would lead to potential spoilers. All I will say is that if you are a fan of gothic crime or historical crime fiction then I would recommend you read this book. With a haunting and atmospheric narrative, an intense mystery at its heart, compelling characters, and a dark chilling presence that casts its shadow over every page, it’s a definite thumbs up from me.