The Strange Case of The Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
Published: June 20th, 2017
Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository
Synopsis: Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.
Diversity: No lgbt+ characters as confirmed yet. No characters of colour but characters that have come from many places across Europe and have language barriers etc to contend with.
Warnings: experimentation on children/child abuse, captivity, mentions of torture
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a brilliantly clever novel inspired by science fiction and mystery stories from the Romantic and Victorian eras of writing. Theodora Goss brings together Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes in this fantastic world of murder mystery and secret societies and scientific advances left unchecked.
In the story, you follow the daughter of the famous Dr. Jekyll, Mary Jekyll, as she finds out exactly what her father was responsible for before his death. Over the course of the story, she meets these fantastical women, all daughters of famous scientists and all products of their father’s experiments: Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
Goss keeps the era wonderfully. This feels like a book written in the 1800s. Whilst there is a modern pace throughout, time is taken to describe in a lot of detail the rooms in which Mary finds herself, and places that are visited across London. It’s hard to embody a time in history so different from your own, but Goss succeeds brilliantly.
The characters themselves are engaging and sympathetic. They have their limitations, despite their strength or their deadliness, and they slowly integrate themselves into the mystery and into Mary’s life. I particularly liked Beatrice, beautiful and intelligent and deadly to touch or be around because of the poison that her father slowly introduced into her system before birth.
You get a great sense of their voices through something that Goss incorporates through the course of the novel that I haven’t read before. The characters themselves interrupt the story as it is being written to object to the writing, to argue against what they were thinking in that moment, to complain about an event. They converse with each other and fight each other and speak about what they believe now, what has happened since and plainly banter between each other.
Whilst it can break up the events of the story, it also breaks up some of the more dense pieces of writing and gives you a chance to hear a character’s voice in a way that the narrative doesn’t allow for.
I finished the book and hoped that there was more to come in the future. I want to read about how they uncover the secrets of the mysterious Society of Alchemy. I want to know more about their lives together and see how the likes of Sherlock, Watson and Lestrade cope with the Athena Club on the case. I want to know what makes Mary and Diana monstrous, as they are so often referred to as such throughout the book.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daugther is a fun and entertaining twist on historical fiction, mysteries, and science fiction. It’s easy to read, immerses you into the time period and the world, and will have you constantly wanting to know more.