Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘shilling shocker’ is short and spooky. Opening with the leisurely introduction of a small mystery, Stevenson dedicates the first half of this creepy novella to building the intrigue to such a compelling climax that the reader is puzzled beyond belief.
Character development and setting are handled masterfully, with the reader feeling almost as if they were accompanying the endearing Mr Utterston or repellent Edward Hyde down the deserted streets of night-time London, where the majority of the narrative takes place. Henry Jekyll’s comfortable home sharply contrasts his cold surgery-come-laboratory; Stevenson teases the reader with such tiny clues but infuriatingly reveals nothing tangible.
Re-reading the story for a book club discussion, I already knew the plotline of this iconic and infamous tale before I arrived at the detailed revelation which concludes the story. Its ingenuity and skill did not fail to impress me, however, the second time around. I could appreciate more fully Stevenson’s amazing exploration of human nature through the medium of horror, and it left me, as I read the well-known closing lines, chilled and introspective.