Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek. Anthony O’Neill

4 stars for this sequel to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the 1886 Gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Mr Seek refers to a quote in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which its narrator, lawyer Gabriel Utterson, says ‘If he be Mr Hyde, I shall be Mr Seek’.

It is possible to read this book without having read Stevenson’s and find it an enjoyably dark quick read. You will find the novel to be more layered, intriguing and possibly infuriating if you are familiar with the original novel – if you do not read Stevenson’s book before this then I certainly recommend that you read it afterwards.

Anthony O’Neill’s sequel takes place seven years after the ‘disappearance’ of Henry Jekyll. Jekyll’s legal status is about to change from missing to deceased and Utterson, as sole beneficiary of Jekyll’s will, is poised to take possession of his old friend’s home. It is at this point that a man claiming to be Dr Jekyll appears and takes up residence there. Utterson knows this to be a case of identity theft: in Stevenson’s book he had seen the dead body of Edward Hyde and read Jekyll’s confession that they were one and the same person. Yet to protect his friend’s reputation, Utterson had repressed this document, meaning that no-one else knew with certainty that Jekyll was dead.

To Utterson’s horror, Jekyll is accepted by everyone – he looks like Jekyll and seems to know things nobody else but Jekyll would know. The book then follows Utterson’s increasingly frenzied attempts to discredit Jekyll, even to the point of trying Jekyll’s potion himself. This is a darkly glorious chapter of the book, where Utterson ‘jerked and jolted and snarled and chuckled; he loped and hunched and sprang and twisted… and all the while the gas lights squealed, the air licked his face, colours reeked, the flagstones dazzled beneath his feet.’ The sense of energy and menace here is electric.

It is a brave author who takes on a classic writer’s work – for every Wide Sargasso Sea there are dozens or more failed efforts such as Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey. O’Neill has not failed: I am not convinced by Utterson’s alteration from calm, scientifically rational lawyer in Stevenson’s book to the man portrayed by O’Neill – but I am impressed by the audacity of O’Neill’s attempt, and how he encourages us to look again at the duality of man and even to doubt our reading of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

I read this ebook free from NetGalley in return for an honest review. The quote given above is from this ARC, and may therefore have been amended in the final published version. UK publication date: 1 September 2017 by Black and White Publishing.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s