It is my absolute pleasure to be showcasing Craig Russell’s Hyde as part of the blog tour for the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2021. Tomorrow night we’ll find out who has won, and all this week bloggers have been showcasing the shortlisted books. You can check out the others by looking at the banner at the foot of this page. It is a cracking shortlist and I’m excited to know who will scoop the prize. You can watch the ceremony and the whole Bloody Scotland Festival online with a Bloody Scotland Digital Pass.
Let’s start with the publisher’s description:
Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.
When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.
He must find the killer, or lose his mind.
A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.
Here’s what I thought:
There’s nowhere better than Edinburgh to cast a spellbinding Gothic story. Edinburgh with its surgical traditions, its black history of grave robbers Burke and Hare, its underground streets and the famous Arthur’s Seat coffin dolls. Russell takes very real moments and some real historical figures and uses them to mould a dark and seriously fiendish tale that strikes at the heart of Victorian Edinburgh society.
Nothing could be more natural. Russell goes back to the Edinburgh of Robert Louis Stevenson to show us the origins of Stephenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Captain Edward Henry Hyde has returned from his tour of duty in the British Army after defending the Empire in India. Now he is Superintendent of Detective Officers for the City of Edinburgh Police. In this douce city where bourgeois respectability is everything and craftsmen are held in high esteem, Russell lifts the veil of respectability to look underneath at the dark and evil monstrosities that lie below.
He does this, intriguingly, against the backdrop of a Scotland that is not entirely comfortable with its role as part of the Empire since the Act of Union; a Scotland that dares to dream of a more glorious future and this element is mirrored in Hyde, a man who struggles with what he has seen and done in the name of the British Empire. There are levels and layers to this book and they work together perfectly to allow us to see the hypocrisy of both man and the society he treasures while, beneath the surface, ugly boils suppurate and threaten to break through to the surface.
Hyde, according to his his friend and psychiatrist Dr Samuel Porteous, is epileptic. He only knows that he loses time and after an episode, comes to with no memory of where he has been or what he has done. Porteous is treating Hyde in secret so that Hyde can conceal his condition from his employers. But he is also increasingly concerned that Porteous is experimenting on him in the hopes of gaining glory through the development of an innovative treatment.
Everyone, we realise, has dual motives and aspects in this clever book that wondrously marries fact and fiction in an altogether too persuasive telling of a beautifully Gothic masterpiece.
Hyde works as a fabulously gruesome, entertaining story in its own right. It is a rich, layered story full of dark demons, old folk tales, and a bit of devil worship all combined with wonderful imagery and mysterious characters whose very presence makes us quail and fear them.
Hyde is a fantastic murder mystery, full of sulphurous smells, rich in atmosphere and twisty as you like. Russell provides strong female characters too in the form of that most undouce of things, Dr Cally Burr, a female surgeon and in Elizabeth Lockwood, a formidable business brain and heir to her father’s business empire.
Hyde is also a chilling and deeply scary tale of madness, myth and pure evil, rooted in the legend that is Jekyll and Hyde, and yet altogether different.
Verdict: I could not love this book more. The language is glorious, the settings perfect. The rich layered storytelling is suspenseful, chilling and full of meaning. There’s so much deftly embedded in this story that you could go on discovering gems for some time. I love this outstanding book and give it all the stars for an absolute must buy – must read book.
Craig Russell’s novels have been published in twenty-five languages, four have been made into major films in Germany, in one of which he has a cameo role as a detective. He has won the CWA Dagger in the Library and the McIlvanney Prize (for which he has been shortlisted another twice), and has previously been shortlisted for the CWA Golden Dagger, the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, and the SNCF Prix Polar in France. A former police officer, Craig Russell is the only non-German to have been awarded the Polizeistern – the Hamburg Police’s Police Star. When not writing, Craig Russell paints, cooks and reads, but not simultaneously.