January 20, 2017

The Jekyll Revelation - Robert Masello

47North Books, November 8, 2016.


Five Stars


The Jekyll Revelation follows two parallel timelines, and two very different men – who may be more alike than they realize. Rafe is an environmental scientist working in the drought-stricken Topanga Canyon in California, where he finds an antique steamer trunk in a dried-up lake bed. Inside is a journal that tells a shocking story about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and the macabre inspiration for his famous novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


Rafe spends his days tracking animal poachers in the canyon, and his nights reading Stevenson’s journal – as he reads, the novelist’s story is slowly revealed to us as well. When Stevenson travelled to Switzerland with his wife and stepson to be treated for his lung disease, he was given a curative potion with some unexpected side effects. He experiences blackouts and half-memories of unusual events. The potion inspires him to finish his novel about Jekyll and Hyde, and it is performed as a play in London not long after. The play receives rave reviews – until it seemingly inspires a copy-cat, later identified as Jack the Ripper. Stevenson himself becomes a prime suspect, although he becomes suspicious of someone else close to him.


As Rafe speeds through the journal, intent on finding out the identity of the Ripper, he begins to witness some shocking occurrences in his own time. Aside from the journal, Stevenson’s trunk contained other items that could trigger the Jekyll and Hyde curse all over again – most suspicious is a mysterious flask filled with an unidentified liquid. When Rafe tries to dispose of the trunk’s dark contents, the potion ends up falling into the wrong hands.


Stevenson’s journal entries feel impressively authentic to the writing style of his original time. Although Rafe is living in another century and across the world, he becomes entirely wrapped up in Stevenson’s story. In most novels with parallel stories, I usually prefer one and suffer through the other – but in this case, both settings were completely compelling. Jekyll and Hyde is often rewritten in different disguises, but this novel truly feels fresh and original. Although some scenes were somewhat weak and contrived, the overall effect was very successful.


Although this novel is set (partly) in a historical era, it doesn’t exactly fit that genre – it is a gothic mystery with a dash of horror, interspersed with modern scenes that emphasize the many ways that men can become monsters. Masello has played with the timeline here in places, but it is still very authentic to Stevenson’s life and seems to be very well researched. I will definitely be looking out for more of Masello’s novels, which feature real historical characters with a twist.


I received this book from 47North Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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