Seven years after the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic story, a stylish gentleman arrives claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. He’s managed to convince all of Jekyll’s friends and acquaintances that he is the doctor – all, that is, except for Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s trusted lawyer. As the impostor grows more brazen and the bodies begin piling up, Mr. Utterson begins fearing for his life, and his friends begin fearing for his sanity.
I don’t tend to read “sequels” to classic novels because they don’t feel like true sequels. You can tell that they weren’t written in the same time as the original, they aren’t written in the same voice as the original – it feels too much like fanfiction masquerading as something legitimate. In this story, Anthony O’Neill has managed to overcome that barrier. Within the first chapter, I was immediately struck by the same gloomy elegance that I had found so compelling when I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The parallels in structure also contributed to the feeling that this is a “true” sequel – or as true as we will ever get – to the original story.
I absolutely loved how compelling Mr. Utterson was as a protagonist. From the very start I was uncomfortable with him (at one point he expresses his intention to keep his unrequited love in his old home “like a parrot in a cage”), but he held so strongly to all of his convictions that you couldn’t help but empathize with him. Because of this, as a reader you get the sense that we have an unreliable narrator, and you spend the whole story not quite sure what to believe – right through to the end of the book.
If you are looking for a sinister read as we head into fall, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek is an excellent follow up to Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic novella.