‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes’ by Loren D. Estleman: A Review

Author: Loren D. Estleman
Genre: Fiction, Crime, Thriller, Mystery
First Published: 2010
Pages: 214

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,many questions were left unanswered. Now, Estleman answers these questions with a little help from the infamous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.’ 

One October evening, Sherlock Holmes is visited by the lawyer, Mr. Utterson. Utterson has concerns surrounding the will of the esteemed Dr. Jekyll, which states that if he is to die or disappear, all of his goods shall be left to the detestable Edward Hyde. Hyde is a name well known in the pubs and brothels of London’s notorious East End, and Utterson is concerned that Jekyll is being blackmailed by Hyde.

Holmes and his companion Watson set out to discover the truth behind the unlikely relationship between Jekyll and Hyde, but once Hyde commits the murder of a well-liked MP, a vicious man-hunt begins. Once Holmes unravels the mystery surrounding Jekyll and Hyde, a deadly confrontation occurs.

Estleman did a fantastic job with this novel. Not only is it true to Conan Doyle’s original tales in the sense that it is recorded by Watson, and the tone of the novel echoes that of the originals, but it also stays entirely true to Stevenson’s plot. What I found most fascinating about this novel was the conclusion that it offered. All of the questions that Stevenson left unanswered surrounding Jekyll’s mysterious death are answered in an unexpected confrontation.

This reworking of two classic protagonists offers a new light on the tales. It is wonderful reading a story that you know so well from another perspective (as well as feeling like you are one step ahead of the master that is Sherlock Holmes!) Although the tone does slip from time to time, Estleman has done a brilliant job of capturing the ‘voice’ of the time, whilst also making these classic stories appeal to a modern generation.

Now I have read this title I am eager to begin other titles in the ‘Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series. I am particularly interested in the outcome of ‘Sherlock Holmes and the War of the Worlds’ (keep an eye out for a review on that one!) For anyone who loves either Sherlock Holmes and/or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this one is a must read!

Favourite quote: ‘Quite right, Watson. These days, however, gentlemanly status seems to be more a question of appearance than conduct. I sometimes think that a gorilla would pass without comment at one of our West End social functions, so long as his shirt front remains spotless and he holds his teacup in the proper fashion.’ (p. 47)

Rating: 9/10

‘Deja Dead’ by Kathy Reichs (#1 Temperance Brennan Series)

Author: Kathy Reichs
Genre: Fiction, Crime, Thriller
First Published: 1997
Pages: 509

After recovering a dead body, Dr. Temperance Brennan is convinced that a serial killer is at large. However, with no one on the police force believing her, it is up to Tempe to track down the killer herself. Before long, it becomes personal.

Dr. Temperance Brennan is the Director of Anthropology for the province of Quebec, Canada. It is her job to assess any bones discovered in the region, to determine whether a police investigation is required. When they unearth the body of a young woman, Brennan has a strange feeling of déjà vu. The precise dismemberment of the body reminds her of an earlier case, which then triggers the memory of another. After studying the cases closely, Tempe is convinced they were all committed by the same person. With no support from the police in her suspicions, she decides to track down the killer herself.

As the bodies begin to pile up, the message starts to become clearer – it’s getting personal. Tempe receives a gruesome message from the killer, and soon the lives of those she loves are under threat. When Tempe finally thinks she is safe, she must face the killer face to face.

I haven’t read a crime book for quite a long time now and I wasn’t sure if I would still love the genre as much as I used to. However, I had nothing to fear because as soon as I picked this book up it was impossible to put it down. I wasn’t sure how Reichs would successfully draw out the plot over five-hundred pages while maintaining the pace, but she achieved it brilliantly. The end of almost every chapter is left on an agonising cliff-hanger, which will keep you reading well into the night. The other thing that really struck me about the book was the effect that it had on me; it really had me feeling on edge, (even from the safety of my own room!) to the point of looking over my shoulder. However, Reichs also managed to successfully add in elements of black humour, at which you do find yourself chuckling.

As a lover of the TV series ‘Bones,’ I was surprised how much the books differed. Tempe is much less socially awkward in the books, but still as headstrong as the actor portrays her. If anyone was a fan of the show and wanted to read the books I would suggest them to consider the books separate from the TV programme, as they are incredibly different but equally brilliant. After reading ‘Déjà Dead’ I am eager to start reading the other books in the series, and see how Reichs adapts the stories to make them all unique.

Favourite Quotes: ‘I’d painstakingly examined the hair, searching for fibres or other trace evidence. As I separated the damp strands, I couldn’t help imagining the last time the victim had combed it, wondering if she’d been pleased, frustrated, indifferent. Good hair day. Bad hair day. Dead hair day.’ (p. 18)

‘He looked like a tall, confused dandelion, with his long, thin stem and puff of white hair.’ (p. 36)

Rating: 9/10

30 Day Book Challenge – #28 The Last Book You Read

Author: Lynda La Plante
Genre: Fiction/Crime
First Published: 1994
Pages: 467

Alcoholic Lieutenant Lorraine Page loses her job, her family and her reputation as she plummets into a downward spiral of drinking and prostitution. But when she is viciously attacked, she becomes the vital witness in the hunt for a serial killer. 

Lieutenant Lorraine Page has a fantastic reputation within the police force, a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a drinking problem. When he shoots an innocent young boy dead she loses her job, and as her drinking spirals out of control, her family is next to leave. She lives the next six years in a hazy, drunken stupor; selling herself to make just enough money to buy her next bottle. After being hit by a car, she is taken into hospital, then a rehabilitation unit, where she meets recovering alcoholic Rosie. Seeing an opportunity to get herself out of hospital and to her next drink, Lorraine convinces Rosie to take her in under false pretences. While the pair struggle to see eye to eye, they slowly begin to work out a routine to suit them both, helping each other through relapses and financial troubles, with the help of Rosie’s sponsor, Jake.

One day, Lorraine is picked up from a street corner. Desperate for money and a drink, she is prepared to sink back into her old ways. When the man almost kills her with a hammer, she is suddenly drawn back into the police system, aiding their enquiries as they attempt to track down a serial killer. Suddenly, Lorraine has a reason to get herself back together, and with the help of Rosie, the pair undertake their own investigations with some dangerous consequences.

I had never read a Lynda La Plante novel before, and it isn’t something I had ever considered picking up. I read this one as one of my Dad’s colleagues send it as they thought I might enjoy it. Initially, the plot seemed very interesting. It opened right in the middle of Lorraine’s shooting incident, and started to discuss her decline straight away. I found this interesting as it differed from the regular opening of crime novels. However, the character of Lorraine was unlikable; her compulsive lying to those who are trying to help her is almost unbearable. Even during the police investigation, the reader is aware that all of the characters are withholding information from one another and it is infuriating as you cannot help but think that they would progress much quicker if they were more open with each other.

Another issue I had with the book was the sheer volume of characters and their complicated relationships with each other. The plot revolves around a complicated web of blackmail that is almost impossible to grasp, meaning that it is very difficult to remember who is who in the story. I also disliked the twist at the end of the book, as you are given the sense of closure that is accepted by the reader and not questioned, when Lorraine rips the whole case open again, and offers another complex network of blackmail that once again loses the reader. Although Lorraine does appear to have redeemed herself at the end of the book and becomes slightly more likable, her character is still irritating and deceptive.

Unfortunately I didn’t really engage with this book beyond half way. While I think Lorraine’s decent into alcoholism is an intriguing and new approach to the stereotypical detective character, the second half of the book is unnecessarily complex and hard work to comprehend. Many of the characters lack the sense of being fully formed, and begin to merge into one, and the ending that initially seems satisfactory is further complicated unnecessarily. Ultimately this book wasn’t for me, which was disappointing after such a promising opening; however, the opening was wonderfully done, which is why I have decided to settle for an average rating, as what the second half lacked, the beginning made up for.

Favourite quote: ‘Rooney felt inadequate. This big-eared windmill of a man, after just a few days’ thumbing through their files, was throwing out mind-blowing stuff.’ (p. 146)

Rating: 4/10