The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello

The Jekyll Revelation - Robert Masello

When Rafe finds a broken down trunk in the river, he has no idea that it will reveal the answer to a mystery which captivated the world for a long time - the identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper.  Rafe finds a journal belonging to the author Robert Louis Stevenson and learns that this is one story Stevenson's little brownies didn't simply deliver to him in his dreams one night.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, may have captivated London and all the world with its release but it's nothing in comparison to the truth which has so long been buried.

The first 25% of The Jekyll Revelation  is slow moving and so boring that watching paint drying might well be better entertainment.  Were it not for my commitment to read 30% of a book before bestowing a DNF status, I would not have finished The Jekyll Revelation. When The Jekyll Revelation slowly starts to pick up steam, it's not a bad book per-say, just overly long and somewhat distracted. Part of the problem is that The Jekyll Revelation is divided between Stevenson's diary and Rafe's story in the present day.  It is almost like reading two different books because the connections between the two men are tenuous at best.  Masello would have been much better served to simply stick with Stevenson's story because there is no need for a present day connection. In fact, cutting out Rafe's story altogether would have made the book much more concise and far more interesting.

Unfortunately, cutting out Rafe would remove a major character of colour.  The Jekyll Revelation is yet another in a long line of examples in which we find that for some reasons authors believe that the London of the 1800's was homogeneous and white.  To be clear, London or more specifically England, was at the zenith of its power at that time and most certainly meant that people of colour from all the various colonies resided there.  There's absolutely no reason why Masello couldn't have included a man or woman of colour in the past beyond the Native Samoans, who he painted without any nuance and full of wonder for the white men in their midst.  There is also the uncomfortable juxtaposition between the prostitutes slayed by Jack the Ripper and a Samoan woman whose brutalized body is found on the beach.

There is also Fanny, Stevenson's wife, who is described as having "tawny skin".  At times, Fanny reads as a typical White English woman of her time and at others a person of colour.  At this point, I'm not exactly sure what Fanny is but I am however bothered by the following quote:

She was planting some vegetables now. bent over, her hands in the dirt and her skirts tied back to be out of the way.  With her black hair and tawny skin, it was not hard to imagine her as a squaw in some Indian village; I know that was how Henley saw her. 

I suppose one could reasonably argue that "squaw" used in this fashion is a matter of how people spoke back then about Indigenous women; however, that doesn't make the slur anymore acceptable. Because this is the private thoughts of Stevenson, there's no push back against the racist slur and it stands as though such language isn't dehumanizing and problematic.



Read More