Review: The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, Viola Carr


Although The Dastardly Miss Lizzie represents the conclusion to the Electric Empire series, Viola Carr has surpassed her earlier efforts.

It seems rather fitting that both Eliza Jekyll and Lizzie Hyde appear on the cover of The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, Viola Carr’s latest. It also seems fitting that one suspects that the name “Miss Lizzie” might just refer to not only Miss Hyde. But to say more than that may in fact qualify as a spoiler, and that’s not what we’re here for.

No, we’re here to talk about the book in terms of quality. Eliza Jekyll and Lizzie Hyde share a body — their father is the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, whose strange case (you’ll forgive the pun, we hope) looms over Eliza and Lizzie’s present. Dastardly Miss picks up where the earlier two books left off, with Eliza now engaged to Remy Lafayette and still putting up with plenty of ridiculousness in the form of sexism with her work for the Metropolitan Police.

As in previous entries, Carr blends mystery, steampunk, science fiction, and all the literary references you might wish into one fantastic adventure, but it feels like Dastardly Miss handles them all a bit more deftly. All in all, it’s a fitting end to the trilogy, and it gets 4/5 stars from me.

The Good

Throughout the novel, Carr lets Lizzie and Eliza bleed into each other a little more than previous entries in the series. And it works, because that means there’s also more room to meditate a bit on the duality of these two protagonists and their separate lives. In fact, although the case Eliza finds herself embroiled in is bigger than ever before, it’s also perhaps the most personal of the three cases captured in the series.

As per usual, there’s also plenty of room for humor. It may be more subtle than you may expect, but it’s there. In particular, it shines in the dialogue, which helps keep the story moving. (At a nice-size-though-not-oversized 448 pages by my count, that certainly doesn’t hurt.) But even the characters that provide the most comic relief also play roles in the story.

Indeed, nothing particularly feels wasted in The Dastardly Miss Lizzie. There are quite a few plot threads woven throughout the book, and yet they all come together quite neatly towards the end of the book. A clever reader may pick up sooner rather than later which classic piece of fiction provides the references this time around, but even so, one suspects they’ll still be satisfied at the end with the twists and turns Carr’s thrown in for good measure.

The Not-So-Good

This, I admit, is something of a nitpick, but it’s a frustrating one all the same. Lizzie Hyde’s sections often feel more repetitive than Eliza’s do. Part of that, I suspect, is because Lizzie narrates in the first person present tense, while Eliza instead opts for third-person limited. (It remains a nice touch.) But because we’re constantly in Lizzie’s head while she’s out and about, she repeats certain turns of phrase more than Eliza does, without the justification of the mechanical pet Hippocrates not having as many words. They can easily stick with and bother a reader who’s devouring the book in large sections, and they stuck with me. It does help further distinguish between the two very different voices, but they’re already different enough as it is.

The Recommendation

Fans of any and/or all of the following will probably enjoy Viola Carr’s Electric Empire series, with The Dastardly Miss Lizzie included:

  • Science fiction, particularly classics like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, of course
  • Steampunk works, particularly Victorian steampunk
  • Fantastic mysteries (or just bloody mysteries; one of our criminals this time is “the Soho Slasher,” which tells you quite a bit, doesn’t it?)
  • Works with a little bit of romance on the side

As a fan of all of the above, I certainly enjoyed the ride and am perhaps a bit sad to see Dr. Eliza and Miss Lizzie go.

Next: Review: Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn

You can find The Dastardly Miss Lizzie at your bookseller of choice.