The Jekyll Revelation is a clever play on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with the notorious Jack the Ripper playing the role of Stevenson’s titular villain. And the fact that Stevenson is one of the book’s protagonists only adds to this cunning tale.
The story is a mystery of sorts that unfolds in parallel. One part in the present, and the other in the late nineteenth century. In the present, we’re introduced to Rafael Salazar, a field officer with the Bureau of Land Management in Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles. I actually grew up right near there, so this part of the book reminded me a ton of my hometown. The mystery, however, concerns an old steamer trunk half submerged in a lake. Among other things, the trunk happens to contain a secret journal written by Robert Louis Stevenson, and soon it’s revealed that the past storyline is actually the contents of the journal Rafael discovers.
There’s a whole lot more to the present storyline, including a romantic subplot and a canyon full of tension between Rafael and the local biker gang. But it is the parallel storyline involving Stevenson that really makes the book. The story begins in Switzerland where Stevenson is seeking an experimental cure for the tuberculosis he suffers from. The clinic is an old mansion tucked away in the Alps that reminded me a lot of the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Stevenson, who is there with his wife and stepson, soon discovers that all is not right at the clinic, and that its famous owner, Dr. Rüedi, is engaging in strange and very dangerous experiments.
From there, the story moves to London during the time of Jack the Ripper. In an author’s note at the end, Masello states that his inspiration for the book came from the fact that the first murder by Jack the Ripper occurred at a time when the stage play for Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was playing in London. In fact, according to Masello, suspicion for the killings even fell on Stevenson for a time.
The mystery behind Jack the Ripper (who was never captured in real life) drives the second half the book and made it a story I won’t soon forget. And, in a deft bit of storytelling, the mystery of the Ripper even manifests itself in Rafael’s timeline. The most suspenseful and chilling parts, however, play out in Stevenson’s tale. He’s a compelling character, and after 493 pages, I feel like I’ve lived the adventure alongside the famous author. It’s even inspired me to go back and read the one classic of his I never got around to: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.