The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter—Secret Societies, Murder, and Tea

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss book cover
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodora Goss, follows the meeting and adventures of the daughters and ’daughters’ of mad scientists in 1890s London. Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein, along with the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, investigate the murders of young women in White Chapel and their connection to the sinister Societe des Alchimistes.

1—Notes and Interruptions

The book is in epistolary format, ‘written’ by Catherine Moreau with commentary by the other girls. There’s an ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of chapter one, where Catherine explains the notes and why she’s kept them in the book—partly to help illustrate the characters of the various young women about whom she is writing and partly so you can see what she’s had to put up with while writing it. It’s very meta, but very entertaining.

2—The Girls

We meet Mary at her mother’s funeral, at the end of long illness and madness that has left Mary with very little money left. She is then summoned to her mother’s solicitor’s office where she receives papers that lead her first to Sherlock Holmes and then to Diana, and then to the Poisonous Girl, Beatrice, whom they must rescue. Beatrice then leads them to Catherine and Justine who are performing in the circus as the Cat Woman and the Giantess, respectively. It takes half the book to get the girls all together but it’s never boring.

3—The Mysteries

What is the Societe des Alchimistes and who are its members? And why did some of these members create the girls? What is their link to the murders? And why are the murderers taking body parts? And, of course, who are these mysterious, monstrous women the story is about? These are the central questions of the book. The last three get answered, and the second part of the first gets a partial answer. I won’t give away those answers, but I will say that the person ultimately behind the murders is an entitled, possessive jackass.

Conclusion

I had a good time with the ladies of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and look forward to reading the next in series, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.

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