Thursday, November 12, 2015

Viola Carr - The Diabolical Miss Hyde

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 . . .

Comment: This is the chosen book for one of my book clubs monthly read. This is a steampunk UF/mystery. I like UF and I like steampunk but usually I prefer my books to feature some kind of romance and I hoped this would have enough of it to make me interested in everything related to the main characters.
This is the story of dr. Eliza Jekyll, the daughter of famous Dr Jekyll and she has the same affliction as her father, the double personality, having to live with her second identity and changing when she can't fight it anymore. Lizzie Hyde is the opposite of Eliza, she's frontal, aggressive, determined, unafraid and wiling to do justice by her own hands. Eliza is more cynical and practical, innocent and polished.
The book starts with Eliza's investigation of a crime scene - she's the forensic expert of that time - when an officer arrives to determine if she's competent or exactly who she says she is. The two of them don't seem to get along but Lizzie likes what she sees. As a killer keeps killing and stealing body parts from the victims, can lizzie solve the crimes, uncover the killer's identity and deal with surprises in her personal life that will change completely what she has always believed in?
After having read this book the idea that stays with me is "confusion". I think this story has a lot going on and it's not always easy to follow or to imagine and much less to understand why some things don't seem to be explained well. I assume the point is to keep the reader interested and eager to get the second book. This is obviously valid, nothing against it, but it's also true that for the readers who won't read the book or can't do it as soon as they can, it's frustrating to know some things were left unsaid/undone.
I'm still unsure if I'll read the second one, probably my curiosity will get the best of me, but right now I feel very confused and despite the general understanding of what the book revealed, several things seemed too weird and unfinished.
Some examples:
- Eliza and Lizzie are one person, clearly with different ideas, wishes, behavior, taste, personalities. I still don't get why there's a split personality though. Is it because of the elixir - like her father - or she was born that way and the elixir is just the means for the personalities to emerge? But then they can switch in harsh conditions, so...confusing.
- The bad guys are weird as they had to but was it really necessary to exist so many different ones, it's hard to focus on one issue at a time and despite the ending which explains things, I still think I had to pay attention to so many things I didn't really "care" about any of them, you know.
- Eliza has always believed in some facts and throughout the book some of that knowledge comes apart. It's quite the drama and causes a surprising effect but on top of everything I think it was too much going on. This makes the book richly detailed and that can be good but I felt the lack of a steady situation to make everything else look more structured. Everything seemed too dispersed.
There are good things, I liked the relationship between Eliza and Lizzie, but I would prefer them to act more in sync, they aren't friends who share a common dilemma, I feel some antagonism, I wonder how that would play out and honestly, that's the main reason why I'm considering reading the next book. The romantic relationship to the hero -if we can think of him that way - is so complicated and not the focus. I kind of wanted things to be more black and white but they sure do seem too grayish, especially if one thinks about Eliza's love interest - weird - and Lizzie's - practical but difficult. I'm not certain of that could play out and I'm a little annoyed at the doubt, really.
The book ended with interesting scenes...that would shape the next book for sure, but what if things keep on being too subtle and secondary? I fear the ongoing unsolved issues not having a clear or interesting solution.
I'm sure many readers think differently, but I wanted a bit more humanization, personality focus on the heroes. The story is too dispersed for me. The atmosphere and some descriptions are key on important aspects but I don't think that is enough to suit my personal tastes of how things should work. Some authors convince us of that and in this case, some things weren't done as I would have liked. It doesn't mean it's bad, but I felt it too confusing in the end.
Grade: 6/10

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