(First story in the Adventures of the Athena Club series)
This book has a fascinating spin – the main characters are daughters of the fictional experimental scientists of the 18th and 19th century: Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde, Victor Frankenstein's female creation Justine; Catherine, a human-puma woman created by Dr. Moreau, and Beatrice Rappacini, the daughter of the experimental botanist Dr Rappacini.
The story begins with Mary Jekyll burying her mother. She discovers her mother had been supporting someone with a secret bank account. When she investigates, she finds her sister Diana. Mary needs more information about her father and decides to visit Sherlock Holmes, who is in the process of investigating a series of brutal murders of young women. Mary, Diana, Holmes and Watson pursue clues and discover other young women; first Mary assists in rescuing Beatrice Rappacini, whose breath is poisonous to others. They later meet Catherine and Justine. The young women decide to live in Mary's house and form the Athena Society in order to pursue the Society of Alchemists, a secret group to which their fathers (or creators) belonged.
The writing is charming, amusing, and idiosyncratic. The narrative is a story of how they met as written by Catherine Moreau. The women interject comments into her narrative, praising or complaining about how the story is being written. Although the ladies of the Athena Club assist Holmes and Watson in solving the mystery of the brutal murders, more mysteries remain. A potential new member of their club requests rescuing, but she resides in Austria. The book ends with the ladies planning their journey to Austria.
This intriguing group of young women possess a unique circle of talents and abilities, and their investigative prowess was just starting to blossom at the end of the first adventure. The second Athena Club adventure "European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman" was released in late 2018. This promises to be a series that's well worth following. The characters are nicely developed but each has more secrets to be revealed. Goss deserves high marks for inventing these characters and devising the clever plot line that brings them together.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Theodora Goss
2017, Saga Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
400 pgs, $24.99 hb