Pros: Very well-written; fascinating story
Cons: The modern-day part fades into the background
Rating: 4 out of 5
In Robert Masello’s The Jekyll Revelation, a modern-day park ranger stumbles across a strange steamer trunk during a drought that has nearly emptied a lake. In that trunk he finds an old journal by Robert Louis Stevenson, and, as a fan of Stevenson’s tales, he reads it.
The journal tells of Stevenson’s attempts to find relief from his tuberculosis while traveling with his wife, Fanny; his stepson, Lloyd; and their dog, Woggin. (Now I want a dog, just so I can name him Woggin!) He visits a famed doctor’s clinic, where he undergoes stranger and stranger ‘cures’, most of which have no effect on him. One, however–a dark and disgusting brew–gives him some strength, and also seems to darken his personality. Finally he heads back to London, taking several flasks of the brew with him.
In the meantime, we keep pace with Rafe, who found the journal in the present day. He’s trying to track coyotes for a study, but he’s dealing with a motorcycle gang, a meth lab, and his generous neighbor’s abusive boyfriend–while said boyfriend ends up with the rest of the contents of the trunk.
I didn’t find the modern-day aspect as compelling. This is unusual for me, because I’m typically not a historicals kind of gal. The characters and story are interesting, but there’s just so much more meat to Stevenson’s tale. I come to moderately care about the modern people while getting totally pulled in to Stevenson’s cohort of colorful characters. I’d have liked to see the modern tale get taken farther in certain directions. I was pleased at some of the unexpected extra material that pushed the 1880s story farther and gave us an extra revelation or two.
The characters had plenty of depth to them, although Fanny was my favorite. Dour and strong, with a weak spot for her son and strong feelings for both her husband and the money and fame his writing brought them. She isn’t the stereotypical money-grubber, but she has no shame for the fact that money is both useful and capable of buying excellent things–like hopeful cures from freaky German doctors.
I’d recommend The Jekyll Revelation to anyone who has an interest in the Jekyll & Hyde story, or just the general milieu of those sorts of tales.
NOTE: Free book provided by publisher in return for review