Monday, 5 August 2019

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

When Mary Jekyll's mother dies, she discovers a secret bank account used to make payments in connection with Mr Hyde. Mary cannot fathom why and faced with an uncertain financial future, she seeks out Sherlock Holmes to find out if there's still a reward for the capture of Mr Hyde. Their investigation leads them to meet many other young ladies who have been wronged by a mysterious society of alchemists.

She had longed for adventure, and now that it was happening to her, she was not sure how she felt about it.

The Strange case of the Alchemist's Daughter is the first book in Theodora Goss's Athena Club series, which follows family members from classic genre fiction. Whilst Mary is obviously Mr Jekyll's daughter, when her father was Mr Hyde, he had another daughter. There are also characters from Frankenstein, The Island of Doctor Moreau and Dracula.

Beatrice Rappaccini is a character from a short story (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) that I had to look up, but like the others she is given life beyond that short fiction. Some of the characters have had to lead lives as sideshow freaks in order to make a living, until Mary takes them in. I liked how it explored what happens outside those stories, that there are innocent people left behind.

I listened to this on audio and the characters interrupting the narrative all the time was a bit pointless and distracting. I don't know if this works better in print at all. Catherine is the one supposedly writing the story and they other characters keep chiming in to correct her or agree.

This first story also borrows from the Whitehall Murders attributed to Jack the Ripper and, like many writers before have done, an alternate narrative is given with a supernatural angle.

What could women accomplish if they did not have to continually mind their skirts, keep them from dragging in the mud or getting trampled on the steps of an omnibus? If they had pockets! With pockets, women could conquer the world!

It was a little slow in places, spending a lot of time on each woman's backstory as well as the character comments. I think now that I'm familiar with all the characters I would consider reading more. It was simple, escapist fun set in a mock Victorian era, where attitudes to women and science are just starting to turn.

ATY: 25. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #3 Something Borrowed

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Book Source: Purchased

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