The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughterby Theodora Goss
Published on June 20, 2017 by Saga Press
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
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, Catherin 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.
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If I had to describe this book in one word, it’d be “delightful.” One of my favorite shows is Penny Dreadful, primarily because it mashes literary characters all together in one world, which is exactly what The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter does. Though I didn’t recognize all the references made to other classics, I did pick up on a few such as Jekyll & Hide, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, and so on.
This book wasn’t what I expected at all. The story starts off much as you would expect, the classic narrative, then suddenly the characters are jumping in with commentary as the story’s being told! At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about it but it soon became a source of humor as the women jumped in to correct the “author” on what actually happened and provide snippets of additional info. Y’all know I love a snarky character and these women had it in spades.
But what sold it for me is that this book kept to the classics while also re-inventing them. I felt as though I was reading Frankenstein (one of my favorites) or one of the many adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Goss creates a world that remains true to the original works but then spins it by introducing the daughters of some of the literary greats. You first meet Mary Jekyll, daughter of the infamous doctor. Diana Hyde comes in later, as well as another creation of Dr. Frankenstein, and even the famous Holmes and Watson duo. Each draws on their respective inspirations while bringing together a fun cast of fictional daughters.
I did have issues with the pacing a bit, more so at the end where the story sped up in contrast to the rest of it. Some of the commentary, while amusing, was at very inopportune moments that broke the tension of a scene or slowed it down. Or both. Then again, though this starts as what could be a thriller of sorts, it’s quickly turned on its head and proved more of a humorous mystery type of book.
I’ll say that I didn’t really read this one for the plot. While intriguing, the characters and their classical tie-ins were of more interest and if you enjoy where they all came from, I think you’ll like this story as well. The unique style and different take on a “re-telling” of sorts made it a stand-out in the genre for me. The spin on monsters only added to this effect. Definitely recommend, and look forward to more by this author!