Exclusive Excerpt: Mary Jekyll Meets Sherlock Holmes in The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Books Features Theodora Goss
Exclusive Excerpt: Mary Jekyll Meets Sherlock Holmes in The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Sure, you’ve heard of Dr. Jekyll. But what do you know about his daughter?

Theodora Goss’ enthralling new novel draws from horror and science fiction classics to create an original tale starring Mary Jekyll. Titled The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, the book drops a new generation of heroines into the captivating, violent world of 1890s England:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

We’re excited to share an exclusive excerpt below, in which Mary meets Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for the first time. The excerpt also features amusing interjections from Diana and Beatrice, who—along with the other main characters—chose to comment on the manuscript (much to the author’s chagrin).

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Mary followed Mrs. Hudson up a narrow flight of stairs to the second floor.

At the top of the stairs, Mrs. Hudson knocked. “There’s a lady to see you, Mr. Holmes,” she called through the door.

A shot rang out, and then another.

Mary flinched, both times, but Mrs. Hudson seemed not to notice.

She waited for a moment, then said, “It’s important, Mr. Holmes.”

Another shot, and then—

“All right, let her in.” The voice implied that whoever she was, she would be an infernal nuisance.

Mrs. Hudson opened the door. “In you go, miss,” she said to Mary. “And don’t let Mr. Holmes intimidate you. If anyone can help you with your problem, he can.”

Mrs. Hudson paused for a moment, in case Mary might reveal what that problem was. An angry father? An absconding fiancé? But Mary said, “Thank you very much, Mrs. Hudson,” and walked into the flat.

Yes, it was indeed a terrible mess.

On the mantelpiece, above the fireplace, were skulls, repre¬senting what Mary recognized as different physiognomic types, in a row from highest to lowest. The last one in the row was obviously the skull of an ape, but in an effort to be humorous, perhaps, someone had put a top hat on it. By the window stood a camera, from which an opera cape was hanging, probably for whomever was going to wear the top hat. The long table in front of the window was covered with equipment of various sorts, just as her father’s laboratory table had been: she could see a smaller portable camera, a Bunsen burner and microscope, glass jars filled with what looked like human ears swimming in liquid. Casts of hand- and fingerprints. Boxes of dirt in a variety of colors, from light red to black. Along the wall across from the fireplace were bookshelves, overflowing with books. There were books stacked on the floor, the sofa, and one of the armchairs. On the other armchair was a violin.

The man in the middle of the room was holding a pistol. He was tall, with a high forehead and the sort of nose they call aquiline. He looked, Mary thought, like an inquisitive eagle. His shirtsleeves were rolled up, and he was pointing the pistol at the wall.

Diana: You’re not going to make him the hero, are you? Because that would be sickening.
Beatrice: I think Mr. Holmes would make a very good hero.
Diana: You would!
By the mantle, the wallpaper was pocked with bullet holes in a pattern: VR, VR, VR—Victoria Regina. For a moment, Mary wondered if she should have gone straight to Scotland Yard.

The second occupant of the room rose from behind a stack of books on the sofa. “What are you thinking, Holmes? You’ll scare the girl.” He was shorter, stockier, with a mustache. Unlike his friend, he was properly dressed, in a jacket and tie.

“I’m not scared, Dr. Watson,” said Mary. “I’ve read your accounts of Mr. Holmes’s cases, and am aware of his peculiarities. Although shooting inside a flat seems somewhat theatrical, doesn’t it? Honestly, I thought you had made it up for dramatic effect.”

“Ha! She’s got you there, Watson!” said the man holding the pistol. “Or perhaps she’s got me. There’s nothing quite like the clear-sighted irony of a modern young lady to make one feel ridicu¬lous. Although I swear this was a practical experiment, however it may appear. Well then, madam, tell me who you are and what sort of assistance you need this morning. Lost a pug or Pomeranian? I seem to be in the business of retrieving missing pets lately. I’m Sherlock Holmes, and this, as you have so brilliantly deduced, is my associate, Dr. Watson.”

“No,” said Mary. Lost pug or Pomeranian, indeed! “I’m here to ask about a murder that happened fourteen years ago. I believe you were involved with the investigation. My name is Mary Jekyll.”

“Is it now!” said Holmes. He put the pistol on the table, next to the microscope. “Come sit down, Miss Jekyll. I remember the case, and your father, Dr. Henry Jekyll, although it was a long time ago. I was interested in chemistry, and he was described to me as the best man in his field. Not quite sound in his theories, perhaps, but the best. Do you remember the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, Watson? It was in the early days of our association, when I was just beginning to establish my practice as a consulting detective. Miss Jekyll must have been . . .”

Mary put her umbrella in the stand, beside a pair of fencing foils.

“Here, Miss Jekyll,” said Watson, moving the stack of books from the armchair nearest the door. She sat down, noting the cig¬arette burns on the arms, and put the portfolio on her lap.

“It was almost fourteen years ago,” she said. “I was seven years old.”

“Yes, I remember a daughter. And a mother.”

“My mother died recently,” said Mary.

“My condolences,” said Watson, bowing to Mary. “But no, I don’t remember the case, Holmes.”

“Thank you.” Her mother’s death was the last thing Mary wanted to discuss at the moment. She turned to Holmes and said, “At the time, there was a reward . . .”

“I was not involved with the case directly, but you would have read about it in the newspapers. The murder was marked by its particularly vicious nature and the high position of the victim. Sir Danvers Carew was a member of Parliament, a personal friend of Gladstone, and a prominent supporter of Irish Home Rule. The facts, in brief, were as follows.” He swept aside a stack of books on the sofa, sat with his elbows on his knees, and tented his fingers together, then stared at the wall just over Mary’s head as though actually seeing the events he was describing.

“Sir Danvers was found brutally beaten to death on a street in Soho. His head had been bashed in with a cane—the cane was actually found broken beside him. His purse and watch were still on him, but he had no other identifying papers, except a letter in his pocket addressed to a solicitor named Utterson. This Utterson was summoned and identified the body. The police already knew who had committed the murder: a housemaid who was looking out onto the lamplit street, waiting for her admirer, had noticed a man she recognized as Mr. Hyde. He lived in the neighborhood, with a woman who was said not to be his wife. She observed him walking along the street, stopping once under a street lamp to check his watch, which is how she could identify him so clearly—until, at the street corner, he met Sir Danvers Carew. A conversation, and then an altercation, ensued. Hyde struck the man over the head, then continued to beat him until the body lay still on the pavement. Utterson told the officer that Hyde was employed by one of his clients, a Dr. Jekyll, who lived near Regent’s Park. Not far from Baker Street, and I observe that Miss Jekyll walked here, although not through the park, I think. The mud of Regent’s Park is quite distinctive, since it contains matter from the flower beds. No, that is ordinary Marylebone street mud, splashed from the gutters.”

Mary looked down at her boots. Well, next time she would gather more distinctive mud for Mr. Holmes! Seriously, did they need to go into all the particulars of the Carew murder? She was starting to lose her patience.

“But I take it there was a difficulty,” said Watson. “Or you would not be describing the case in such detail.”

“You know me well,” said Holmes. “Utterson led the officer to Hyde’s Soho residence, around the corner—but the man was gone. Although the police combed London, and indeed all of England for him, he could not be found. It was as though he had disappeared into thin air. I was sufficiently intrigued that I decided to look into the case for myself. Whatever else can be said about them, our English police are nothing if not thorough. It is difficult to escape them so entirely. I had no official relationship with the police at that point. But my brother Mycroft knew Jekyll, so I asked for an introduction. He was willing enough to discuss the matter with me. He told me that Hyde had been a sort of assistant to him, helping with his scien¬tific experiments. However, he claimed that he had not seen Hyde since the murder. Shortly afterward, Jekyll committed suicide.”

Yes, that was what Mary had remembered last night: a tall man in her father’s study, walking back and forth on legs like scissors, and old Poole telling her not to interrupt because her father was talking to an important gentleman, a detective. She had deduced that it must be the famous Mr. Holmes, whose cases were featured so often in The Strand.

“Holmes!” said Watson. “Consider Miss Jekyll’s feelings!”

“I’m perfectly fine, thank you,” said Mary. “But I would like to know if there is still a reward? You see, I may have some information. . . .”

“I’ve always wondered about that case,” said Holmes. “Hyde was never found, and eventually Scotland Yard stopped looking. I did not pursue the matter further or inquire into the cause of Dr. Jekyll’s suicide. As I mentioned, it was early in my professional career, and I had other cases to attend to.”

“Mr. Holmes!” said Mary. “Is there or is there not a reward for information leading to the apprehension of Mr. Hyde? One was advertised at the time of the murder, but I do not know if, after all this time . . .”

“Yes, there was a reward,” said Holmes. “A hundred pounds for information leading directly to the apprehension of the murderer, offered by the family of Sir Danvers Carew. Whether the family would still be willing to offer that sum? I don’t know, but we can certainly enquire. It would be best to ask Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. I’m meeting him in an hour to discuss these murders in Whitechapel. These ’orrible murders, as the newsboys keep shouting. Watson, I’m afraid the mystery of Lord Avebury’s menagerie will have to wait. We have two mysteries on our hands, both more intriguing than a collection of missing animals. If Lestrade does not know, he can tell us whom in the family to contact. But about what? If you’ll forgive my saying so, Miss Jekyll, you don’t appear to be the sort of person who consorts with crim¬inals or knows their whereabouts.”

“And yet, I may know where to find Hyde,” said Mary.

“Indeed?” he said, smiling. It was evident that he did not believe her. “Well then, Miss Jekyll. What can you tell me?”

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The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is available now from Saga Press.

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