“The Devious Dr. Jekyll” Impresses

24805699The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr
Harper Voyage: October 27, 2015 (Steampunk)*

I’d go there again!
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The Devious Dr. Jekyll is the follow up to Carr’s The Diabolical Miss Hyde in which the daughter(s) of Mr. Hyde are introduced. Sharing the same body are Dr. Eliza Jekyll, forensic investigator and physician, and Miss Lizzie Hyde, a gin swilling, crass speaking, unapologetic young woman. Eliza and Lizzie continue to be at odds with one another, both reluctant to give the other more control. However, their mutual existence is compromised with a new killer on the loose, a marriage proposal, and a return of an old foe (at least in Lizzie’s eyes).

I had mixed feelings about the first book in the series. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that Eliza and Lizzie are sharing one body but are still two separate entities. For me, this whole idea is problematic – I have so many questions. Does what’s happening to one happen to the other? What does this mean in the romance department? Unfortunately, this doesn’t really get answered in The Devious Dr. Jekyll, but I’m going to roll with it and forget about reality and the impossibility of the whole situation.

Like it’s previous installment, The Devious Dr. Jekyll is centered on a mystery. Someone’s murdering folk in gruesome, unnatural ways. After burning her bridges with the police, Eliza is asked by Captain Remy Lafayette to join his investigation into the less conventional aspects of the murder. Eliza is up for the challenge, but she’s less enthused to be working with Remy as she still has not given him an answer to his marriage proposal. He’s a werewolf, she has another person living inside her, plus she’s kinda intrigued by a redheaded serial killer. This marriage would work, right? Right? It soon becomes clear that Eliza has much bigger problems than figuring out if she wants to marry the charming Captain. The murders are part of a much bigger problem and Eliza has just found herself in the middle of it.

For the most part, I found The Devious Dr. Jekyll to be a strong follow-up; in fact, I enjoyed reading it a lot more than I did the previous book. The mystery was stronger; the characterization of Eliza and Lizzie was better executed and less confusing. In fact, it’s the dynamic between Eliza and Lizzie that had me coming back and held my attention throughout book two. I’m so intrigued by the characterization of Eliza/Lizzie. Are they one person? Separate women? It’s something that both Eliza and Lizzie struggle with, but Lizzie in particular feels resentful as she’s generally the one in the shadows:

I’ve always been the lesser half, wallowing in dirt and decadence while Eliza keeps pure…but now a poxy plague itch plagues my flesh, this diseased notion that no, Miss Lizzie, you ain’t half a person at all.

You’re no person.

A shadow. An empty cipher. A figment of some ugly dream she’s having while tucked safely away in bed. Come morning, she’ll recall fragments – my voice, liquor’s dark flavor, the starlit shock of a caress – and a shiver will rack her spine…then she’ll turn her face to the sun, and forget me.

The whole concept of identity and individuality as it’s explored in The Devious Dr. Jekyll is done really, really well. Lizzie is incensed that she is constantly repudiated by Eliza and Eliza for her part, looks down on Lizzie. However, both women have reluctantly recognized that they need each other, even if the idea of a miraculous cure is tempting.

While Lizzie feels a distinct lack of agency and acts out, Eliza is not without her flaws. Eliza is presented as a the more noble of the two, but I think it’s in her flaws that you can appreciate the fact that Eliza and Lizzie are separate people. Like Lizzie, Eliza makes some bad calls (really bad calls) and they have terrible consequences. With both women making mistakes, it’s very clear that they’re not two sides of the same coin, but something else entirely. Eliza and Lizzie’s existence cannot be captured with a simple explanation and it’s that hint of something more complex that keeps me intrigued. While The Devious Dr. Jekyll may have ended with a bit of truce between the ladies, I can’t help but assume that it’s unlikely to last long.

What I was less thrilled about was the romance. Readers of the first book will recall that The Diabolical Miss Hyde concluded with Remy’s proposal to Eliza. Lizzie is not happy about this proposal or Remy’s continued courting of Eliza. And, I have to admit that I don’t blame Lizzie. I’m left feeling underwhelmed and less than convinced that Remy actually wants to marry Eliza – I’m just not sure if I buy into his proposal. And neither am I convinced that Eliza has any real feelings for Remy (she was attracted to a creepy serial killer after all). The chemistry between Eliza and Remy seems to be missing, which I think will be a disappointment to those looking for a stronger romance in The Devious Dr. Jekyll. The romance does progress further than in book one, but I’m not sold on it quite yet. Perhaps this will be addressed in the next book.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous book, I think there’s a lot to like in its follow-up. Eliza and Lizzie and their very complicated relationship continues to impress, add in a fast-paced action-driven plot and you’ve good a strong read. The alternate history elements are understated, but the inclusion of great classic fiction elements (i.e. Portrait of Dorian Grey anyone?) makes overt references unnecessary.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

Similar Reads

While Erin Lindsey’s The Bloodforged is not an obvious choice for a reading recommendation, I think fans of Eliza Jekyll will be intrigued. Alix, the heroine of The Bloodforged, reminds me quite a bit of Eliza. Alix makes some questionable decisions in The Bloodforged and it’s that moral ambiguity that I think will appeal to readers of The Devious Dr. Jekyll. I recommend that you start with book one in Lindsey’s series The Bloodbound. While the comparison jumped out at my with reference to book two, it’s pretty essential to start with the first book. See my full review of both book 1 and book 2.

The Bloodforged (Bloodbound, #2)

For a more obvious follow-up read, I have to recommend Bec McMaster’s Steampunk London series. If you were looking for more romance, McMaster will satisfy that craving. Add in the fact that McMaster has some rather questionable characters for her heroes and heroines and I think fans of Carr’s books will be pleased. Start with book one, Kiss of Steel.

Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk, #1)

Looking for more similar reads, check out my review of The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

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