Criminal Classics – Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is a writer, rocker and journalist, his new novel Hit & Run is out right now, from Faber and Faber.

Doug’s pick is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson…


Forget those cheesy images of old movies full of grimacing transformations, bubbling beakers and steaming potions, Stevenson’s original is a stonewall literary classic, and very definitely a crime novel, with a smidgen of horror thrown in.
It’s only a novella (my copy clocks in at under a hundred pages) but it’s densely packed with meaning and subtext, as well as being a rip-snorting page-turner to boot. The idea of distilling the human condition into its good and evil constituents (or, more accurately, into its moral and amoral parts) is brilliant and never executed better than here, as the well-to-do medical man Jekyll transforms himself into the base animal that is Hyde.

I’ve seen it argued that this is a book about drugs, alcohol or medication, either way, it’s certainly a book about addiction on one level, but I think Jekyll becomes addicted to Hyde’s way of living as much as anything else, in the end choosing to live and ultimately die as him, rather than conform to conventional life in Victorian London. Superbly atmospheric, genuinely disturbing and endlessly thought provoking, it’s a classic that seems as fresh today as the day it was written in 1886. Timeless genius.


– Doug Johnstone


The Criminal Classics series was prompted by a post which originally appeared at Crime Fiction Lover.

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