Historical fiction mash-ups can be quite enjoyable, especially when handled as a fun read, playing fast and furious with history, reality and the imaginary, and doing away with the burden of hidden codes and ancient conspiracy theories, which is an easy pitfall that is usually handled more sloppily than not. Robert Masello shoots for the fun and crafts a tale around a “What if…?” solely grounded in reality when he discovered that the play The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opened on the same night as Jack the Ripper’s first murder. Creepy, eh? Hence, the “What if…” found in The Jekyll Revelation. What if… Robert Louis Stevenson was involved with the Jack the Ripper investigation?
The Jekyll Revelation bounces between a present day California park ranger and Stevenson’s journal from the late 19th century. Loaded with introductions and characterizations, from both timelines, the first third is slow build-up – and unnecessarily slow at times as the remainder of the novel accelerates to orbital velocity levels. Masello, however, does create good, recognizable characters, albeit on the cliché side for those California players. The true delight is watching the story unfold, in both centuries, through Stevenson’s journal.
Masello postulates with the time-honored literary tradition of men playing God and the results of such dealings. Stevenson takes on the unlikely role of a reluctant action hero, but he’s Scottish so it’s all cool, as does his park ranger American contemporary who must deal with the crimes of the past in the present resulting in fisticuffs and bullets all around. American storytelling at its best, eh?
An enjoyable read that gets moving after a heavy start. Most of all, this is fun. Thanks to NetGalley and 47North for the advance copy and the magic contained within.