There is no Jekyll, only Hyde: Hyde by Craig Russell #Hyde #bookreview #NetGalley

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.

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Hi and welcome to my review of Hyde! Last year I had a great time with Craig Russell’s previous novel, The Devil Aspect, so when I first got wind of Hyde I was very excited, even more so after reading the blurb and seeing the trailer.

Hyde introduces us to Robert Louis Stevenson, a frail, gaunt man talking to his robust friend Edward Hyde about a book he is trying to write. He knows exactly what he wants to write but the words to do so elude him and it’s consuming him. When he tells Hyde that he wants to write about the duality of human nature, the good within the bad and vice versa, and the coexistence of good and evil in one person, Hyde tells him he has a tale about just that…

A story within a story: Edward Hyde’s tale takes us back in time two years. Superintendent of detective officers in Edinburgh’s City Police, Captain Hyde has just found a man thrice murdered: hanged, ripped and drowned, but he has no recollection of why he was at the scene in the first place, which is rather troubling, as is the terror of the young Highland girl there with him and her talk of banshees. 

According to Hyde’s friend and physician Dr Porteous, Hyde has a form of epilepsy. But what a strange form it is: absences from reality, hallucinations, nocturnal seizures. Hyde is not sure that’s all it is, and he’s starting to suspect his medicine makes him worse instead of better. Of course the reader is equally unsure. Are we to trust Hyde, or is he the unreliable narrator the legend would have us believe? I have to admit I kept asking myself that same question over and over again, I just couldn’t be sure.

After tackling the legend of Jack the Ripper in The Devil Aspect, Craig Russell now takes the tale of Jekyll and Hyde and makes it entirely his own. The result is respectful of tradition, yet refreshing. I went in expecting a dark, Gothic tale, atmospheric and disturbing, and that was exactly what I got. Between Hyde himself and other mysterious, somewhat off characters, Hyde has the kind of dark vibe that I adore, keeping me wary of almost every single character throughout.

Small details give Hyde an air of authenticity and the reader a sense of the era: the mention of electrification in the streets of Edinburgh, the intricacies of post-mortem investigation, how stomach content is already examined but blood testing is still a new, limited and largely mistrusted part of an autopsy, and the (male) mistrust of a female physician (Dr Callie Burr is a brilliant character though!). Other story elements refer to Scottish legends and folklore, rituals, Celtic mythology. The combination is an interesting one, intelligent and intriguing.

Hyde utterly fascinated me, drawing me into its dark, mesmerising depths where historic and occult crime fiction meet. Recommended.

Hyde is out on 4 March. Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and NetGalley for the free eARC. All opinions are my own.

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