Sunday, March 26, 2023

Mrs. Hyde, by David Dean


"Mrs. Hyde," by David Dean, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2023.

This is the seventh appearance here by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer.

Regular readers of this column may recall that I am not a big fan of pastiches, but I do like homages.

The pastiche is fan fiction: Author B trying to create a story in the style of and with the characters of Author A. Consider, for example, ten zillion Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Conan Doyle.  

A homage on the other hand is something more subtle. B delves into the universe A has created and produces something new and different.

Dean has offered us a homage here and, boy, it is a doozy.

This is apparently the first in a series of Victorian-era stories about Dr. Beckett Marchland.  He is an alienist, which is to say, an early psychologist.  One day he receives a troubling letter from a woman who reports that her once loving and kindhearted husband is being changed for the worse by a bad companion.

The woman is Mrs. Edward Hyde.  The wicked friend is Dr. Henry Jekyll.

At this point the reader may be excused for saying: Huh?

Dean has turned Robert Louis Stevenson's novella inside out and takes us to very interesting territory indeed.  I should mention that this tale takes place in London, 1888, during the plague of attacks by Jack the Ripper.  Could Jekyll and/or Hyde be involved in those grisly crimes?

Purists may point out that Stevenson's book appeared in 1886, but that's a small bit of disbelief to suspend for such a wonderful story.  The characterization is rich and one twist literally made  my jaw drop.



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