The basic storyline is thus: a group of daughters/creations of infamous literary scientists band together for self-protection and sisterhood, have adventures, and solve crimes. We have Mary Jekyll, the leader, Diana Hyde the wild and bratty little sister, Beatrice Rappaccini the beauty, Catherine Moreau the fierce one, and Justine Frankenstein the strong one. They are assisted by Mrs. Poole the housekeeper, Alice the maid, and Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as themselves. Their main target of investigation is Société des Alchemistes, a shadowy organization to which their fathers all seem to have had ties. All of this happens while trying to stay away or at least safe from their fathers and/or creators, and trying to figure out who has been killing young women in the London area lately and taking body parts.
The premise is an interesting one, but if you haven’t read or have familiarity with the stories which inspire each girl’s existence, then you may have trouble understanding who anyone is for quite a while. Even if you do, you still may have some difficulty because it’s not immediately clear that Justine is a Frankenstein creation and Catherine is one of Moreau’s. Each girl’s background, except for Mary and Diana, is presented in the second half of the story, but this is of little help in the first half in the conversations when you don’t know who might be who. Mary and Diana’s lack of knowledge about their backgrounds is another problem that Mary at least wonders about throughout the novel, and will likely become the basis for later stories.
I really enjoyed this book in places and it really annoyed me in others. There are two alternating ways the story comes out: 1) as the main narrative that has seemingly already happened as evidenced by 2) the character conversation set in the now. For the first half of the book, the conversation interruptions annoyed me because I didn’t have enough context for them, and then by the second half of the book, the main storyline got troublesome because of some pacing and other accumulating minor annoyances.
I think my biggest problem with the overall set up, besides not understanding who is who and so what in the first half of the conversations, is that the book can’t seem to decide who to focus on. At first, the story is clearly about Mary as she tries to figure out the mysteries her father left behind following her mother’s death. But by the second half of the story, the main murder mystery turns out to be about Justine. Beatrice and Catherine are pretty comfortably set as important side characters, as are Mrs Poole and Alice, but then there’s the problem of Diana. I know that she’s Hyde’s daughter and as such may have character flaws, but she has no redeeming qualities when it comes to the group. I don’t understand why they put up with her when she’s just plain awful. At one point, she even helps Hyde escape from the law, and in spite of knowing the problems and hurt it causes Mary, she does not care at all.
With the brief introduction to the existence of Mina Murray and Lucinda Van Helsing at the end of the book, it’s pretty clear this is meant to be a series. Maybe the next book will be a little better, now that the main cast and situation is established.