02 February 2011

Book Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes

Title: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes
Author: Loren D. Estleman
Publisher/Year: Titan / 2010 (reprint)
Date Finished: 30 January 2010
Source/Format: ARC / Print

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: TBR Dare

The Short and Sweet of It
Sherlock Holmes returns in this brilliantly conceived and written novel, and to make it even better, he is tackling the case of Jekyll and Hyde.

A Bit of a Ramble
First, a confession. If I have ever read an original Holmes story, I don't remember it. I have the complete Sherlock sitting on my TBR shelves, but I haven't had the motivation to pick it up. I, of course, have a general idea of who Holmes is and what he did since he is such an iconic figure. You would be hard-pressed, I think, to find someone who did not know about Holmes' logical reasoning skills. Does that make me qualified to assess how authentic this story is? Absolutely not. But damned if it didn't feel right. The relationship between Holmes and Watson seemed right on, with the one an eccentric keeping things relatively close to the chest and the other more formal doing a bit of clucking like a mother hen.

Just as Holmes as a character has permeated our culture so too has Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Mr. Hyde. While combining two so very well known figures may seem kitsch, Estleman pulls it off admirably. Throughout the entire story, I never felt that either icon was treated carelessly. Actually I had no problem integrating this narrative into the original Jekyll and Hyde story. I felt it an interesting conceit to claim that Stevenson's story was based on real events but modified "to protect the innocent".

The story is wonderfully atmospheric with "the crackle of the fire and the staccato ticking of the clock atop the mantelpiece". And to my delight, the story included a bit of the darker side of Victorian London with a mention of Sherlock's cocaine and a quick trip to a burlesque show.

What surprised me most was how engrossed in the story I was despite the fact that the "mystery" was not really a mystery. After all, finding out that Hyde is Jekyll is not really a shocker, but the story didn't suffer from the familiarity. Despite knowing the outcome, I was engaged throughout, the journey to the truth being so much more exciting than the denouement. Following Holmes and Watson as they meticulously ferret out the truth was fascinating, in no small part because their investigation alternates between periods of intense excitement (girly shows, barroom brawls, carriage chases) and quiet contemplation (exactly how I picture Sherlock).

On a side note, I just taught Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009) in my Introduction to Film course, so I, quite pleasantly, had Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law stuck in my head as our two main characters. The movie relation made me picture the man who played Jekyll in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman in the same role for the novel. While I typically prefer to picture characters without outside influence, this time I didn't so much mind. It gave the book a very movie-like feel in my head. Can you blame me?

Whether you have read Sherlock or not, whether you have read Jekyll or not, I definitely recommend reading this one. It was a quick, intellectual, exciting read. And I hear there is another pastiche out there pairing Holmes with Dracula. I must have it.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Amazon; Loren D. Estleman's webpage;

Question: Has anyone read a solid chunk of the original Holmes stories? Am I doing myself a disservice by not reading them?


  1. Okay I have GOT to read this!!!

  2. I am so glad you liked this. I just read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in preparation for reading this book and I loved it, so I am looking forward to this. I have been reading The Whitechapel Horrors which is Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper. It's also really good. It has a lot of really detailed footnotes too.

  3. This is not a book I would normally be interested in but, dagnabbit, your review has hooked me. Also, the suggestion of fantasizing about Robert Downey Jr while reading helped.

  4. Yes, you're doing a disservice to yourself for not reading the original Holmes stories—they're wonderful; the 1880s atmosphere can be delightfully Gothic at times, and Holmes is just so endearingly weird. (Watson's not so bad himself, of course!) If you're not sure, I'd pick up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and read a few of those short stories.

  5. Amanda - Sent an email...

    Nicole - Footnotes?!? I adore them. I have Whitechapel Horrors too, so I can't wait to read it!

    Vicky - It's not my typical book either, but I am so glad I read it.

    Clare - I have The Complete Sherlock, and I just knew I was an idiot for not picking it up sooner. I've too much required reading this month, but maybe I should dedicate March to Sherlock.

  6. I also have the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes and have not read it yet. Steph over at Steph and Tony Investigate has read a lot of the stories, and she assures me that I am missing a lot by not reading them, but for some reason I never grab them when I am looking for something to read. I like the sound of this book though, and think that it would make a perfect selection after I have some Holmes under my belt! Wonderful review!

  7. Not a book, but have you watched the series Sanctuary with Amanda Tapping? It's pretty good, and Holmes features briefly as a character. Lot's of supernatural going on and it posits that several famous characters from history have been turned into "vampires" of a sort (they include Tesla, Sherlock Holmes, and Jack the Ripper). You might enjoy it.

  8. Heather - Looks we are in the same boat. I don't know what block I've had with Holmes. So many other books I guess.

    Amy - I do watch Sanctuary! I love the inclusion of Tesla.

  9. The movie? The movie was awesome for so many reasons: the relationship, the snippets of how Sherlock processed things. I loved it.

    And the books, well, I read a series, but it was in junior novelization for to my 3 sons. They LOVED them.

    HUGE fans of Sherlock. But I've never read it "oldschool."

  10. This looks good! I love reading about that time period (maybe you too, since you said you didn't care as much about the plot?). I will have to pick it up.

    I haven't read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though maybe I should beforehand?
    I've listened to BBC theater Sherlock Holmes and thought it was a lot of fun... maybe a good way to get into the stories for you?

  11. *swoon* Robert Downy Jr is yum. I just saw Sherlock Holmes with him in it and loved it.

  12. Empress - Agreed about the movie. I really enjoyed it.

    Wallace - I thought it was nice to have read Jekyll and Hyde first; I think it helped even if it wasn't necessary.

    Christina - Agreed. Very yummy.

  13. Sounds surprisingly good! And it always helps me to imagine Robert Downey Jr. doing anything ... I think he is so charismatic!

  14. My dad is wanting to read more classics and apparently I'm his go-to gal (though I haven't been able to talk him into any of the readalong books we've done recently), but for Christmas I picked up The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes collection. I've never read anything by Doyle so the next day I went and picked up a copy for myself. Hope to read it soon. But I love how you say "damned if it didn't feel right"

    Especially with the smashing of Holmes AND Jekyll and Hyde. Sounds like a lot of fun, Trisha--especially whilst picturing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Mmmmm.....

  15. Ooooh! This is really tempting, sounds like an enjoyable read.
    I Have read Dr Jeckyll, but never got around the one copy of Holmes on my shelves.

  16. Jenners - Agreed. Downey dear is rather awesome.

    Trish - It really was a lot of fun, so I hope you get the chance to read it.

    Em - Isn't it weird how so many of us have Holmes but haven't read him?

  17. I've never read Holmes either...I've never been that interested. I did know about the cocaine, though (how I learn these things is a mystery), and that's all I could think of when I started reading your review. So I'm glad it appears in the book!

  18. I saw the Disney cartoon though! Can't remember the title, but Holmes and Watson were mice... Not very literary I'm afraid...

  19. Jill - See, the things that stick in our minds are so similar. Cocaine cocaine cocaine...

    Em - I haven't seen the cartoon either, but I definitely want to now!

  20. My younger brother just finished up a big Holmes streak - I think he downloaded and read every one of his stories on his Sony reader! I'm definitely going to pass along this recommendation to him (and will probably read it myself; it sounds great!). I've only read a few Holmes stories myself. Been meaning to get back to them but haven't yet. You know how it goes . . .

    Also: Reading with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. stuck in your head? Yeah, there are worse ways to spend your time :)


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