Mary Jekyll and her crew of "monstrous gentlewomen" are back in the second installment of Goss' (The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, 2017) gothic mashup series.
We rejoin our heroines three months after the conclusion of their last adventure. The members of the newly formed Athena Club—all daughters of infamous scientists from literature—are living together in Mary's house while Mary earns a living assisting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Mary receives a mysterious telegram from Lucinda Van Helsing, who claims Mary's former governess, Mina Murray, is a mutual friend. Lucinda writes that she is the daughter of none other than professor Abraham Van Helsing (from Dracula), who has subjected her to "certain experiments" that have put her in danger. Locked away in an asylum, she asks Mary and company to rescue her. Naturally, a cross-continental caper to rescue Lucinda ensues, with more cameos from Dracula and other classics. And at more than 700 pages, there is plenty of room for dealings with the nefarious Société des Alchimistes, of which professor Van Helsing, unsurprisingly, is a member. The most compelling threads involve Mary's struggle to reconcile some uncomfortable truths about the people she thought she could trust, and, as with the first book, it's tremendous fun to see all these characters grouped together. But Goss' frustrating choice to have the characters comment on the book as it's being written is still distracting and adds nothing to the story, which is rather overwritten. Worse still, the characters lack depth, functioning mostly as references to the stories they come from.
A fizzy adventure for lovers of the genre, but the execution could have been much better.