"A Modern Mephistopheles" is supposedly meant to be shocking and harrowing. One reason, because it was written by Louisa May Alcott, best known for docile moral tales such as "Little Women". One other reason, is because it contains descriptions of drug use and nefarious affairs. Yet there is little shocking about "A Modern Mephistopheles" except for how disappointing it truly is.
I was intrigued by this novel through the desciption given on the back. It seemed to be, and is, a departure from what we've known from Alcott. It is a tale of a failed poet Felix Canaris, who mysteriously takes up with Jasper Helwyze (nice play on a name) and is a "modern" mephistopheles because the poet has made a deal with the "devil". Canaris eventually marries and Helwyze even has control over his wife. In the end they want to escape his clutches, but it may be too late for them to be saved.
"A Modern Mephistopheles" is a poorly written update of "Faust" in disguise as a mysterious and shocking thriller. The characters are poorly written and developed. One never feels any connection with the four main characters; that of the two men and the ladies who inhabit their world. Helwyze never seems devilish enough even if he "ruins" the life of Canaris and his wife Gladys. It is filled with quotes from various sources (that are never given) that don't allow Alcott's story to speak for itself. Perhaps the reason that it can't speak for itself is because it is trying to hard to be "Faust"; since the main characters directly refer to this masterpiece several times. One is much better off reading the original than settling for this less-than-second-best remake.