The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson #bookreview


The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with the ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil. The other stories in this volume also testify to Stevenson’s inventiveness within the Gothic tradition.

This was another short story I chose to quick start my Goodreads Challenge for 2018, and also to start my personal challenge to read at least one classic novel a month throughout 2018 that I have never read before. I’m not counting this as January’s effort, as it is not a full length novel, but it was a good warm up.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of those stories that we all know so well, its premise has become so firmly embedded in the lexicon of how we describe people with a split personality, that we feel like we must have read it at some dim and distant point but actually many of us have probably never sat down and actually read the original text. This was certainly the case for me.

The story starts out with the main narrator, a lawyer named Mr. Utterson, taking a walk with a friend who tells him a horrible tale about an assault on a young girl by a sinister figure named Mr Hyde who pays off the girl’s family with money seemingly provided by a respectable acquaintance of theirs named Dr. Jekyll. Later, Utterson is instructed by Dr. Jekyll to rewrite his will, leaving all of his possessions to Mr. Hyde. Utterson takes it upon himself to find out what the connection is between the upstanding Dr. Jekyll and the abominable Mr. Hyde and, by the end of the story, the horrible truth is revealed.

This story is a riveting read on so many levels. Just as a straight-forward horror story it is  gripping in its vivid and terrible descriptions, and how the story moves forward as told through the eyes of the bewildered lawyer Mr. Utterson who cannot understand why the seemingly noble Dr. Jekyll is associating himself with the terrible Mr. Hyde. It also works well as a mystery, in which the clues are unveiled slowly, piece by piece, and this remains true even though we all know the outcome of the tale, which is demonstrative of how cleverly it is written. I let my bathwater go cold as I devoured this story in one sitting. The writing is creepy and atmospheric, bringing to life the horror of the monster stalking the fog-bound streets of Victorian London.

Finally, I think the story is fascinating in pondering exactly what it is the Stevenson is trying to say about human nature in this story and, I have read numerous different theories on what this tale is an allegory of. Is it a religious warning against playing God and straying from the path of virtue and righteousness? Is it a veiled reference to the perils of homosexuality in the Victorian era? Is it a sexual morality tale? Are we to draw the conclusion that Stevenson believed that all men are, at heart, primitive beasts whose base instincts are only suppressed by a thin veneer of civilisation that is just waiting to be scraped aside to let our true natures run amok? Everyone reading the story is going to take something different from it and Stevenson himself said “Everything is true, only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned.” It seems that he did not want his story boiled down to a simple, neat explanation. Maybe the mark of a good storyteller is to allow the reader enough room to take from his tale what he will, and it certainly makes for a much more entertaining debate.

You may think you know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I highly recommend that you read the original text for yourself and see if what you THINK you know, is really the essence of the tale for you. you won’t be disappointed. You can purchase a copy here.

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prosperous civil engineer. Although he began his career as an essayist and travel writer, the success of Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) established his reputation as a writer of tales of action and adventure. Stevenson’s Calvinist upbringing lent him a preoccupation with predestination and a fascination with the presence of evil, themes he explored in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1893).

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan #bookreview (@VaseemKhanUK) @HodderBooks


“Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.

But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.

Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.

As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…”

This is the third book in the Baby Ganesh Agency series by Vaseem Khan, but the first one I have read (I’d like to say it’s because I’m a maverick, but really it’s just because of my self-imposed book-buying moratorium and the fact that I was given this as a birthday gift!). It doesn’t appear to matter that I am reading them out of sequence, this book functions perfectly as a standalone novel, but I will definitely be going back to read the first two.

The central character of the novel is Inspector Chopra, a retired police officer-turned-private detective in Mumbai and the plot follows him as he tries to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping of a famous but wayward Bollywood actor. He is helped, and sometimes amusingly hindered, in his efforts by a colourful cast of supporting characters, including his cute little elephant sidekick, Ganesha, about whom there is more than a whiff of the supernatural – he appears to have attributes not bestowed on your average baby elephant.

This book is a light-hearted detective story, along the lines of Alistair McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or the Agatha Raisin books by M.C. Beaton and I believe fans of those series would enjoy Vaseem Khan’s work. The main kidnapping plot is fun and frenzied, with enough twists and turns to keep the grey matter occupied, but the main joys of the book are the characters and the fabulous, exotic setting of Mumbai. The author truly does a wonderful job of bringing all the life and flavour of Mumbai alive in this book, and anyone who likes their stories set in an far-flung location, that is really captured as if it were an additional character in the tale, will not be disappointed.

Inspector Chopra is a character who is very easy to warm to, which is important for the central protagonist in a book of this nature – we need to be rooting for the hero. He is honest, unassuming, moral but very pragmatic and a with a healthy dose of impatience for his old colleagues in the police force and their rules and regulations when they get in the way of his pursuing the case – I really liked that about him. His wife, Poppy, I think perhaps was my favourite character. Not the subservient Indian housewife in a supporting role that you might expect to find, but an independent and feisty woman who is a true partner and support to Chopra, a woman after my own heart. I love writers who include strong and equal female characters in their work.

There is a lovely sub-plot in the book involving flamboyant eunuchs, a long-buried secret and Chopra’s ex-policeman colleague in a ‘fish-out-of-water’ situation that had me grinning from ear to ear. Fantastic fun.

This is a sweet, easy and amusing read with characters you will love, and imbued throughout with all the spice and spectacle of India. If you are looking for a book to warm your cockles and cheer you up, you couldn’t do much better.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star is out now and you can buy it here.

About the Author

Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.