If Edinburgh didn’t exist, you have to wonder if crime writers would find it necessary to invent it; there are few cities more perfectly suited to exploring the dark facets of human nature. And there are few writers more perfectly suited to re-imagining one of the city’s most chilling fictional inhabitants than Craig Russell.
Quite simply, “Hyde” is a stunning piece of work. On one level, it’s a gothic masterpiece, using all Russell’s considerable skill to paint disturbing images of a dark and brooding city in our minds. As you’d expect from an international bestseller and McIlvanney prize-winner, it’s also an intricately plotted and expertly crafted crime novel.
Russell’s “Hyde” is the superintendent of police, an ex-Army officer haunted – perhaps literally – by his role in the British army in India. Suffering from lengthy blackouts and what appear to be hallucinations, he has so far managed to conceal his condition from everyone but his physician. But when he’s tasked with investigating a series of gruesome murders with links to ancient Celtic blood rituals, the walls between his ‘otherworld’ and reality start to crumble.
The disappearance in broad daylight of a young woman from Edinburgh’s upper classes adds to the growing pressure on Hyde from all sides. And when his condition is revealed, his presence at one of the crime scenes places him under suspicion. Is he simply a man tormented by the decisions of a traumatic past, or are his blackouts a symptom of something more monstrous at play?
The book’s finale is a disturbing journey through bloody myth and twisted psychology that acknowledges the darkness at humanity’s heart but somehow still finds its way towards hope.
And honestly? This feels like a very brief summary of an incredibly complex and multi-layered novel. There is gothic detail aplenty here, there is a compelling crime plot set in a Victorian Edinburgh that feels undeniably authentic, a painstaking, near-forensic examination of the duality of human nature in general and some aspects of the Scottish condition in particular, all delivered in Russells’ confidently fluid prose.
Look, I’m running out of superlatives here and my own prose is getting dangerously overblown. TL:DR? It’s a great book. Go buy.
“Hyde” is published by Constable (Little Brown/Hachette) in February 2021.