I am excited to welcome author Viola Carr, who’s celebrating the release of her second Electric Empire novel, The Devious Dr. Jekyll.
Solving the notorious Chopper case was supposed to help crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll—daughter of the infamous Henry—establish her fledgling career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret: her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent with his own secret to hide, Captain Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry Eliza or burn her at the stake? It’s impossible, however, for Eliza to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime to investigate. And although Eliza is uncertain about Remy, Lizzie isn’t. Lizzie wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent and usurp Eliza’s life.
As the search for a bloodthirsty ritual torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws Eliza and Remy into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy—where the price of immortality is madness or damnation—only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive. Eliza and Remy must race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, but they must also overcome a sinister enemy who is all too close to home: the vengeful Lizzie, who is determined to dispose of Eliza for good.
The Electric Empire
The Electric Empire is my first mystery series. I mean, sure, it’s an edgy, dark, gender-flipped steampunk reworking of Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which Dr Eliza Jekyll – daughter of the infamous Henry – is a Victorian-era crime scene investigator, addicted to her father’s magical potion, fighting to stay safe in a world where magic is a capital crime, and resisting the interferences of her sultry dark half, Lizzie Hyde. With a clockwork dog.
So there’s a whole lot going on, besides murders. Lizzie gets her own point of view, and her own adventures in crime and love. There’s magic and weird science and alchemy as well as a little romance. But The Diabolical Miss Hyde and its sequel, The Devious Dr. Jekyll, are murder mysteries at heart.
Which means I need to invent killers! Nasty ones, preferably, difficult to understand and even more difficult to catch. Gruesome murders, ahoy! For an historical crime novel – even a fantasy one – it’s tempting to go down one of two routes.
The first is… ‘do Jack the Ripper!’ Everyone knows and loves Jack, right? He’s the iconic Victorian murderer, mysterious and bloodthirsty. The picture of evil. And the fact that he never got caught means the possibilities for fiction are endless.
But I didn’t want to ‘do Jack’, as fascinating as he is. I’ve already extrapolated some characters from classic literature, and given them my own spin. I wanted to invent my own murderer, who kills for their own reasons. And let’s face it: prostitutes as victims is kind of lazy and sexist. I wanted to freshen it up a little!
The second temptation is to bring in the modern approach. Meticulous psychopaths who taunt their pursuers with elaborate games. Get into the killer’s head and do some profiling.
Thing is: in Victorian times, they didn’t have modern psychology. The idea of a psychopath, or personality disorders, hadn’t yet been formulated. So the ‘profiling’ that we see in today’s crime fiction wasn’t possible. Even Sherlock Holmes, who worked at the very end of the 19th century, didn’t do this. Someone who committed brutal murders was a lunatic, and that was that.
Also, many experts of the day still believed in the ‘criminal classes’ – the idea that poor people were somehow inevitably pre-disposed to commit crimes – and that there was such a thing as the ‘born criminal’, physically as well as mentally deformed, who could never be rehabilitated. The idea that crime has social causes wasn’t widely understood.
So if someone was committing a string of murders in London – like saucy Jack the Ripper – it was because they were a ‘lunatic’ or a ‘criminal type’, and probably a foreigner, too! The fact that Jack seemed to be an educated man – with surgical skills, no less – was utterly baffling. How could a ‘gentleman’ be a gruesome murderer? No effort was made to ‘profile’ or to understand motive in the way we know it today.
In that way, I confess I’ve given my quasi-historical sleuth a bit of a modern edge. Eliza doesn’t believe in the ‘born criminal’. She questions everything. And she works in a mad-house, so she does attempt to get into the killer’s head in the modern fashion. We expect that these days when we read crime fiction. And because my books are mysteries, not thrillers, you don’t get the killer’s point of view. So having Eliza speculate about their motives makes the murder investigation more fun to read about!
Eliza also uses crime scene techniques that strictly weren’t available in that time period. She knows about trace evidence and fingerprints, for example. But hey, it’s steampunk! She has wacky gadgets and alchemical potions that make her a kind of scientific whizz-kid… but they also get her into trouble. Because in her world, ‘weird science’ can get you arrested. So her special knowledge is useful, but dangerous.
Anyway, it’s all so much fun to write that I can’t wait to get into the next book! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my dark, wacky, twisted version of a quasi-modern historical steampunk fantasy mystery horror novel. With a sprinkling of classic literary characters and real-world people. And clockwork dogs.
Meet Viola Carr!
Viola Carr was born in a strange and distant land, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. Viola also writes urban fantasy adventure and dark paranormal romance under a pseudonym.
Want to purchase Viola’s novels?
Electric Empire Bundle
Shadowfae Chronicles (writing as Erica Hayes)