The book is intended to touch your soul. You will lie awake at night not only because the book is a page-turner, but by trying to fathom the depth of the work. Though the story is simple on the surface, it has many facets that reveal themselves only through intense exploration.
On the surface, we know that the title refers to the Robert Louis Stevenson novel The Strange case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It keeps the spirit of good and evil and the influence of urban environments on behavior. The more contemporary American setting of Atlanta, Georgia and its multi-faceted urban environment conveys the same spirit of Stevenson’s Victorian London. Another major difference as Mr. Hyde in the Stevenson story is the antipathy of what is wrong with man on sociological, economic and moralistic grounds, Hughes portrays Mr. Hyde as a financially and socially successful, new right conservative, with the perfect home and family. However, as the reader scratches beneath the surface of the novel, the issue of whom, not when becomes important, as much as why the killing is happening. Is it Jekyll or is it Hyde? Is this case of Double Identity the same biological body with two identities or twins, one black professional and one white professional? The only sure thing is that murders are committed and one or both of these characters is involved.
Whereas Stephenson highlights class issues of the time, with the theme of the story and thinking of the time that the poor were the cause of their own fate, Hughes highlights race issues and religion and the hypocrisy that surrounds both. He takes the additional step that despite the circumstances and opportunities, albeit temptations, that people find themselves confronted with, they basically make choices and are responsible for crossing the thin line between right and wrong. Like the original novel, the character enjoys the sensation of the transition to bad, or the rush that committing the crimes gave him. Naturally, though there may be cloudiness for some when crossing that line between right and wrong, they become bound to the choice, literally imprisoned by it.
Dr. Jekyll wore his Mr. Hyde personality like a cloak; in the Hughes novel, Dr. Jekyll wears the stain of sin like lacquer.
Given the complexity and sensationalism of the story, there are two endings. The story is the same three quarters of the way through. However, the red ending and the blue ending are quite different. Both versions are worth reading as the results, though plausible, are as if dual universes are at work. The commonality is that the endings are open, thus keeping the reader engrossed for the sequel and the desire to read both to gain deeper understanding.
Different readers will receive different images and conclusions from the story. The story should be read a couple times to gain more insight to the plot, though simple on the surface as well as the theme. Different perspectives are likely when both stories are read several times. Unlike Stevenson, Hughes interjects humor, albeit comedy relief in a way that ties in the subplots of the detective to the main story line, as well as being an integral part of the plot.
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