In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, author, Theodora Goss, combines and re-imagines several classic horror stories, (including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, etc.), to create a literary mash-up with lots of humor and more than a touch of girl power. The best way I can think to explain it is to imagine a feminist version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where the “daughters” of famous mad scientists band together to solve a series of grisly murders. With an assist from Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the ladies use their unusual talents and abilities to confront their monstrous pasts and to track down the mysterious Société des Alchimistes.
While the narration, as told by Catherine Moreau with lots of commentary and interjections from the other ladies, could be a little distracting for some readers, I found it amusing and thought it gave the reader a sense of all the different personalities that were coming together to form the team. The author did a great job of giving enough backstory for each of her characters so the reader doesn’t feel lost if they haven’t read all of the original books but for those who have, the little literary shout-outs and references were a lot of fun. My only complaint was, considering the mad scientist theme of the story, if I was going to include an Arthur Conan Doyle character in the book, I would have gone for someone from The Lost World as opposed to Sherlock Holmes. Still, since the Alchemist’s Daughter is obviously the first in a series, there is still time for the ladies to encounter many more literary figures on their adventures.
All in all, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a fun romp through classic horror / adventure stories and makes a great Halloween read for a reader who wants something suitably spooky for the season but not especially scary or gory.