Trembling nerves and thoughts filled with suspicion and unease are normal reactions when reading a Craig Russell novel. Hyde unfolds as a uniquely dark supernatural thriller with a recurring theme of duality that permeates many aspects of this story. The notion of the duality of nature is tantalising and chilling in this outstanding book. With the title, Hyde, the implication is that a polarity of character is evident, but this is not a retelling of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson book, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but there must be some similarities – right? Temptingly the prologue of the novel has Captain Edward Henry Hyde, superintendent of detective officers in Edinburgh’s City Police, preparing to tell his good friend Robert Louis Stevenson a story.
Edward Hyde attends the scene of a brutal murder, where the victim is hanged upside down from an elm tree, his head submerged in the river Leith and his heart cut from his chest. High pitched cries are eerily heard close at hand and it all resonates with Celtic myths and Highland legends. The cry of a banshee and the three times murder – hanged, ripped and drowned, are rituals from an ancient past. What is deeply troubling Hyde, as he explains his fears to his friend and psychiatrist Dr Samuel Porteous, is that he can’t remember any of the events that evening until he was at the scene of the crime. Porteous diagnoses the condition as epileptic seizures, compounded with nocturnal hallucinations, and treats him with a medicinal compound that he is reluctant to reveal. Porteous treats Hyde at his private residence so he can keep the diagnosis and possible repercussions from the police department to benefit Hyde. Porteous only treats Hyde and one other patient privately with ambitions of glory and reputation of discovering a medical breakthrough but concern as he realises the Beast within.
“Porteous the physician also knew that there was another reckoning that must come with time. Another secret that slept, locked in his cells, in his blood, whose dark awakening was inevitable and spurred him to achieve his aims, establish his reputation, before it was too late.”
The significance of the hanging from the elm tree in the ancient threefold murder illustrates the link between this world and the otherworld, this world and hell. The final meal of grains and mushrooms, the cry of the banshee, and the apparent resurrection of the satanic Dark Guild are all parts of the Celtic myths that come from ancient Scottish folklore. A Scotland, that struggles with the duality of identity as part of Britain but the dream of being an independent nation.
After a second, threefold murder and the disappearance of the heiress to the Lockwood fortune, Elspeth Lockwood, the threat deepens and the race to solve the mystery intensifies. Hyde is constantly battling his nightmares and the investigation. He confides his secrets in Dr Cally Burr, one of the first female doctors in the country, which unwittingly draws her into the perilous plot.
As evident from this book and Craig Russell’s previous book, The Devil Aspect, he has an amazing ability to diffuse a cold pure evil in the psyche of a mastermind killer. A killer that walks in daylight unsuspected by those around him, creates a chilling and foreboding atmosphere that pervades all the scenes in the book. The mystery is baffling, engrossing, and scary right until the case is solved and the madness and intentions of evil doings are uncovered.
Craig Russell uses story layers with such deft skill that his novel can only be described as an outstanding and fulfilling experience. I would highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Craig Russell, Little Brown Book Groups, Constable and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review.