Series: Electric Empire #1
Published by Harper Voyager on February 10, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk
Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Henry.
In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.
When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.
Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .
THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE originally caught my attention because it looked like it had steampunk elements, fantasy, evil curses, magical forensics, and a dark twin. This is one of those books that’s difficult to describe, but in a good way. Happily, the book had all it promised and more — I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Electric Empire series.
THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is narrated in turn by Dr. Eliza Jekyll and Lizzie Hyde. Both are the same person, but with very different personalities and abilities. Those last names should sound familiar — remember the classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The author goes off that a bit, but makes it all her own.
Viola Carr wrote Eliza and Lizzie so differently that I never had any trouble telling them apart. Although they share a body, they felt like two distinct characters, and their dual narration/personalities was probably my favorite part of the book. It can bug the heck out of me when an author switches perspective mid-chapter or even mid-scene, but it really worked here. I loved the way one would take over from another. At first, Eliza tries to keep Lizzie subdued with alchemy, and when Lizzie does get out, Eliza’s relieved she can’t remember anything Lizzie does. But over the course of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE, Eliza begins to trust and rely on Lizzie, and vice versa.
Dr. Eliza Jekyll is something of a forensic scientist, using her knowledge, experience, and gadgets to help the police solve crimes. Given the time period of an alternate London, many on the force aren’t willing to work with her, but Eliza trudges onwards in the search for justice. The case in THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is a gruesome one: a serial killer takes body parts from each victim with surgical precision. Why? The appearance of a Royal Society watchdog hampers the investigation. Does the Society suspect Eliza of using unorthodox science?
The murder mystery was pretty twisty for me. The last quarter of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE really surprised me, which is always something I enjoy.
I would have liked more worldbuilding, because the glimpses I got to see were fascinating. There’s an underworld of fae creatures, but other than a few scenes, we don’t learn much about them. Sadface. I also wanted to know more about Eliza’s London, where the crown decides what is allowed science and what is witchcraft. Sometimes, THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE felt like setup for the rest of the series, moving characters here and there, giving out this bit of vital information or that. Also, Eliza has a fascination with a killer she put away before the book started; I felt like I was missing some important background on the Todd/Eliza equation.
Aside from a bit of nitpicking, I really enjoyed THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE. It has an alchemical je ne sais quoi to it. Bring on more of the Electric Empire!
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