Robert Masello has the knack of writing books that incorporate both the supernatural with a well researched time and place for the action. The thoughtful combining of these two factors provide the reader with a unique reading experience which will hold him or her captivated by the novel.
Rafael Salazar is an environmental scientist working in the Topanga Canyon in California with a project of classifying the habits of coyotes. While he does expect to find animal poachers in the normal course of his work, he is surprised to find an antique steamer trunk when a rain shortage brings the item to a newly dry area of a lake.
Investigating the contents, Salazar finds an old journal written by the famed author Robert Louis Stevenson and describing events centering in the 1880’s. At that time Stevenson, a sickly man, was a resident at a care center headed by a doctor developing new and radical treatments. Taking some of the treatments described require an acceptance of literary license. For example, pertinent to the story Stevenson is injected with blood taken from a wolf. The doctor also offers him a specially made tonic which somewhat invigorates the famed author.
Readings from the journal are interspersed with Rafael Salazar’s adventures in the Topanga Canyon in present day California. Stevenson moved to London from the care center and met such literary figures as Charles Dickens and Bran Stoker, the creator and author of Dracula. Stoker, during the period he met Stevenson, was the manager of a theater and coincidentally had a dramatization of “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” playing. The book had recently been published, becoming a hit in England. The play featured an actor that achieved an almost miraculous ability to change quickly on stage from Jekyll to Hyde.
During the period when the play was drawing big crowds, the famed serial killer “Jack the Ripper” appeared in London mysteriously murdering several prostitutes, and surgically cutting them up. For a short while the blame fell on the actor playing in Stoker’s theater since Mr Hyde looked like the supposed description of Jack. But, as is known, the ripper was never caught.
Stevenson left England with his wife and family, stopped in California for a short time and than moved to American Samoa with the hope that the climate there would help his illnesses. He passed away leaving the world with a brilliant literary legacy. What his trunk was doing in California is explained and as part of the narration it’s contents help Rafael Salazar move forward in a budding affair with a woman living in the Canyon, and also do away with a drug manufacturing ring based there.
Very well done and certainly another captivating book by Masello.
11/16 Paul Lane
THE JEKYLL REVELATION by Robert Masello. 47North (November 8, 2016). ISBN 978-1503951198. 492p.