Hyde by Craig Russell. Review.

Hyde by Craig Russell

Constable, hb, £16.99

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Something evil stalks Edinburgh’s dark places, sacrificing citizens in strange rituals and kidnapping wealthy young women. As the superintendent of the detective officers in Edinburgh’s City Police, it falls to Captain Edward Henry Hyde to investigate. As the murders get closer to home, suspicion falls on Hyde himself, especially as one victim is Hyde’s doctor, treating him out of hours for seizures and lapses in memory. Could Hyde be the killer without realising it? During those moments when Hyde has no memory, is he the Beast?

Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my favourite stories. I love the atmosphere, the building tension and the Victorian sensibility, which seeks a logical answer for the illogical. So, when I was allowed to review Hyde by Craig Russell, I jumped at the chance. The story starts with two men on a beach, one fragile and weak, the other strong and hearty. As they talk, we learn that Edward Hyde is visiting his sick friend, Robert Louise Stevenson. Stevenson has a burning desire to write about man’s duality but cannot find a framework to express his thoughts. Hyde then recounts an incident from his own past where he witnessed this duality for himself, which forms the rest of the book.

It is told primarily through Hyde’s point of view, but also side characters and Elspeth Lockwood, a wealthy young woman set to inherit her father’s fortune. This use of multiple points of view is at odds with the premise that this is Hyde telling a story to his friend. However, these build tension and reveal things to the reader, which keeps us guessing right to the end.

This is a typical whodunnit against Edinburgh’s backdrop at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Street lights are only just being installed. This means at night, the city is full of shadow and mist, adding to the atmosphere, particularly when Hyde is on the verge of a seizure and he isn’t sure what is real or a hallucination.

Hyde is portrayed as an ex-soldier who fought in India and suffering from PTSD because of the things he did. It is not expressed as plainly as that. His PTSD manifests in the form of blackouts, and Hyde will lose minutes or hours of his life and the preceding events. If his superiors were aware of this, he would lose his job. He battles his secret affliction throughout, along with the usual things we would expect from a detective story.

I appreciated the sensitive handling of the source material. As someone who regularly rereads Jekyll and Hyde, I could see how the original twists and turns have become events in Hyde. I also appreciated how Hyde the man was constructed, mixing Jekyll’s large physicality and honest, earnest nature with Hyde’s capacity for violence and the impression people have that he has the wrong dimensions.

I felt this was a decent prequel to such a horror classic and is a must for any fans of the genre.