The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter begins with the death of Mary Jekyll’s mother, and with a host of characters that you eventually meet breaking the fourth wall to add commentary to the story. With her mother’s death, Mary is left destitute and must dismiss all of her staff, excepting her housekeeper Ms. Poole who refuses to leave having been a part of the household since before Mary was born. Quickly, a mystery unfolds as Mary finds that her mother was giving money, of which they always had so little, to a home for wayward girls to a recipient with the name of Hyde. With only the thought of earning additional income, Mary decides to pursue this small mystery, with the aid of the famous Sherlock Holmes, and gets wrapped up into a larger mystery and adventure, which she realizes is so much more interesting and exciting than her life had ever been. Always level headed and adaptable, this adventure leads Mary to new family, both blood and made, and a broader sense of the world and what is possible within it.
Firstly, if you have any familiarity with the classic characters and stories this book draws on (Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Moreau, etc), all the mad scientists and their experiments, then it is really fun to read. Secondly, as Long_pig_tailor points out, in their day and age why would these brilliant white male geniuses ever choose not to experiment on the lesser sex? It’s so right in all its wrongness. Additionally, one of my favorite features, is Goss’ attention to fine details of daily living that are so often ignored in fantasy adventure stories. Our heroines have to eat and sleep, they have needs! and time is a real function of these stories! And because of their gender, they must also contend with incomes and households and propriety which is such a realistic capturing of daily drudgery against discovering and escaping from various monsters and madmen.
I really adored this book. Per the initial review’s suggestion I did listen to this on Audio book. I’m not a habitual audio book listener so at first it took me a minute to get used to the different voices that the reader, Kate Reading, was using, especially when the characters jump in with commentary. But Kate Reading is a brilliant voice actor and after getting used to it I don’t know that I could imagine the story being read any other way. I also often found myself anxious to find out what was next and thinking, “if I had bought a hard copy of this I’d be done already.” But that’s also a personal issue rather than any real issue with the audio book and also a reflection on how much I enjoyed this story. I love the audio version so much that I purchased the second audio book in the series despite knowing I could have read it faster myself (I’m about halfway through).