The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello has left me torn. The story is told in two parts, one in the past and one in the present and unfortunately, they are worlds apart in scope and storytelling. Had one part been told this book would have been a masterpiece of historical horror and fiction. If the other tale was told on its own it would have been instantly forgettable. A book that would have been started, put aside and forgotten. But by combining them we have instead, a drowning man whose savior is not strong enough to support him, so together, agonizingly slowly, they both perish.
While on patrol in Topanga Canyon, Environmental Scientist Rafael Salazar follows an endangered pack of wolves, knowing that the dangers of poachers and hidden drug dealers surround him, he stumbles upon a dilapidated antique steamer trunk. Inside he finds a journal written by none other then the renowned author, Robert Louis Stevenson. In the journal, Stevenson tells the origin of his tale, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and also other secrets. The truth of the identity of Jack the Ripper. But in the trunk there is more than the journal, there is also a flask. A flask containing a forgotten potion. A potion that gave birth to London’s most infamous killer.
There are two stories here.
The story of Robert Louis Stevenson, who deathly ill, travels deeps into the mountains to a retreat with holistic healing techniques. One of these techniques is to infuse the patient with the blood of a wild animal. A potion that heals Stevenson, returning him to full strength, but in the hands and cruel mind of someone else, it will create a monster.
The next story is that of the Environmentalist, Rafael Salazar whose obsession to protect his Canyon from the criminal element that find this remote area to their liking. But Salazar has no true authority and no respect. When he finds the old chest, he finds it pursued by others who think its contents valuable. But Salazar, reading Stevenson’s journal, knows that the chest and its contents is far more than valuable, it is dangerous. The potion inside has the ability to create a new monster.
The story that is that of Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the best tales of historical fiction I have read in some time. The tale of Stevenson learning of the potion that would eventually become the essence of his great story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and then the horror as his inspiration becomes reality in the East End of London. Among the alleys and darkness of Whitechapel. Then to learn that his potion has far more than an inspiring effect on the killer, that it create him. A killer that Stevenson is very close to.
The story of Rafael Salazar pales horribly in comparison. It is slow and disjointed and serves more as a distraction; an interruption to the real story of the book. If there was a simple way to skip the pages on this telling and just focus on the historical fiction, the flow and tempo of the book would be strong and fast.
The Jekyll Revelation is a good book that could have been so much better with a little less ambition and an editor who paid attention.