Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #1
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 20th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
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Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper is, as its title implies, a retelling of the murderous rampage of infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of it as a cross between the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and then on a more modern note, a little Forensic Files with a touch of Rizzoli and Isles thrown in. The end result is a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and thoroughly engaged.
Maniscalco does a wonderful job of fleshing out her main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and making her seem so realistic. She’s fiercely independent, headstrong, and sassy as all get out, which makes her such a fun character to follow. Even with the overriding creepy serial killer plot, Audrey Rose still managed to make me chuckle quite a few times throughout the novel. You just never know what she is going to say at any given moment, but you can pretty much guarantee that it will be completely inappropriate based on society’s expectations. Speaking of society’s expectations, Audrey Rose truly doesn’t give a flip about those and instead is way ahead of her time and wants to pursue a career in forensic medicine. When the novel opens, she is, much to her father’s chagrin, working as an apprentice to her Uncle, who is an expert in the field. I kept thinking to myself “She’s like a Victorian Era Maura Isles” (from the popular series Rizzoli and Isles).
Maniscalco also adds a character flaw or two, which serve to further humanize Audrey Rose. Recklessness, in particular, seems to be a hallmark trait of hers. While it’s easy to admire how passionate Audrey Rose is about catching this serial killer who is on the loose, at the same time, I wanted to scream at her at times for lurking around in shady areas of the city and putting herself in harm’s way trying to catch him in the act. It was downright infuriating actually. For someone who is clearly supposed to be quite intelligent, Audrey Rose definitely doesn’t always make the smartest choices.
Speaking of infuriating, let me talk about another main character, Thomas Cresswell. Cresswell is another student of Audrey Rose’s uncle and may actually be the most arrogant and annoying person on the planet. However, he is as brilliant as he is arrogant and annoying and somehow the combination actually works to make him incredibly charming. Weird, right? As they study the Ripper’s victims, Cresswell’s powers of deductive reasoning are so astute that every time he spoke, he reminded me of a young Sherlock Holmes. From the moment they meet, he gets under Audrey Rose’s skin and their chemistry is off the charts. I don’t know if I would ever buy into them as a couple, but they are quite the dynamic duo as they work together to solve these murders.
Aside from these two entertaining main characters, Maniscalco also does a brilliant job of making the reader feel as if they are truly in 19th century London and that there really is a killer on the loose. It was clear Maniscalco did her research on every aspect of the story. The descriptions of the city feel authentic and the atmosphere at night is utterly creepy. You can practically sense the danger lurking around every corner, which makes for a real page turner.
I think my only real dislike was that even though this was a retelling and so the author had creative license to make Jack the Ripper whoever she wanted him to be, I still had the murderer figured out way too soon. In that sense, I was a little disappointed. The murderer’s reasoning for the killings was quite another matter though. Totally did not see that coming and liked the unexpected Dr. Frankenstein-ish twist.
I very much enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction, anything to do with the crimes of Jack the Ripper, or even an interest in forensic medicine or 19th century society’s expectations for its young women. I would issue a word of caution to anyone who doesn’t like to read about blood and gore, however. As is probably expected since we’re dealing with the Ripper and his victims and we’re examining the victims from the vantage point of forensic scientists, the descriptions of the victims are quite graphic and stomach-turning. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If that doesn’t bother you though, it’s a fascinating read.