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The Album of Dr. Moreau
by Daryl Gregory

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted July 13, 2022

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Another story inspired by H. G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, although completely different from the book I reviewed yesterday. First off, the hybrids were not developed on an island, at least not the five central to the story. Instead they had been held on a barge somewhere in international waters west of South America. Perhaps it stayed in the vicinity of 1 South Latitude, 170 West Longitude, but it is never mentioned. When the hybrids escaped the barge it was due to an explosion and fire, and their life raft eventually ended up in the Galapagos, then they were later taken to Ecuador. They were featured on the news a lot, especially when it was discovered they sang in perfect harmonies, which attracted the attention of Maurice Bendix, an uscrupulous music producer. Maurice would later take the pseudonym Dr. M, the hybrids became the WyldBoyZ, eventually the second most popular boy band in the world. The Backstreet Boys still reigned supreme, for this was in 2000. After a short intro, which is a letter written by "A Fan" to someone named Melanie, the story proper begins on the night of Dr. M's murder.

Daryl Gregory's The Album of Dr. Moreau is a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, given to the best short speculative fiction, and was finalist for the Edgar (Allan Poe), devoted to mysteries, which it did not win. The WyldBoyZ had just completed their final concert in Las Vegas, followed by a wild party in Dr. M's penthouse suite. The discovery of his death by housekeeping staff occurred an hour or two after the party broke up. The top detective on the case is Lucia Delgado, whom we later learn was a magician's assistant in her youth, the magician being her father. Some of that experience plays a part in the investigation, because she thinks theatrial tricks had been used, tricks similar to those the WyldBoyZ used in their stage performances. Even before the letter intro, Gregory includes something written by T. S. Eliot in The Criterion literary magazine in 1927: "Five Rules of Detective Fiction." Gregory breaks all five rules. Detective Delgado is a meticulous observer and questioner, but she is also a lot like a champion poker player, keeping her cards, I mean suspicions, close to her vest, even keeping her partner in the dark. All of the WyldBoyZ are suspects of course, especially Bobby, the ocelot-human hybrid, since he was found in the room with the corpse. He has no memory of the past few hours since, as usual, he had been drunk and/or stoned most of the night. Dr. M's wife is also a suspect, mainly because she was in the midst of an affair with Devin, the bonobo-hybrid lead singer. Or at least he always thought of himself as the lead singer, while the others thought of themselves as equal harmonic partners.

I won't say anything else about the plot, certainly not reveal the culprit. As with most good mysteries, there are red herrings, suspects getting close to incriminating themselves, or just being oblivious how what they say will be perceived. My suspicions kept shifting between characters, even conceding Delgado's partner's theory of it being a "rabid fan" was believable. A lot of WyldBoyZ fans were like Furries, attending concerts in animal costumes, and that included a few from an official fan club that had attended the party. But what if one of the hybrids disguised themselves inside another animal costume? That eliminated a couple of them as suspects since they were too big to fit the costume found stashed in a restroom on a lower floor. The true answer actually comes a bit before the end, it's almost an anti-climax. The only other things I will say is that justice is eventually served, and that the story is recommended for its convoluted mystery, the disection of the concepts of personhood and bodily autonomy, analysis of musical styles (not just that of WyldBoyZ), and many, many comical moments. It's a longer novella, but still a quick read, and very entertaining on several levels. Inexpensive in e-book, although I got it through the library. I suggest you check it out.


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Daryl Gregory

May 18, 2021

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