STALKING JACK THE RIPPER weaves a bloody mystery into a chilling tale of adventure!
Young Adult lit has always been home to strong female characters testing the standards of their society and we must admit, we love that theme. Add in a bone chilling murder mystery involving one of the world’s most infamous serial killers and Stalking Jack The Ripper definitely turns heads!
Audrey Rose Wadsworth knows all about polite Victorian society. Her family has been trying to push her into it ever since her mother died of scarlet fever, but she prefers to spend her time elbow-deep in ichor, dissecting and studying bodies with her undertaker uncle. It’s a secret task that could cost Audrey her reputation, but things get especially complicated when notorious murderer Jack The Ripper begins to terrorize the streets of London’s Whitechapel district.
First, Audrey’s uncle takes on a new apprentice. Thomas Cresswell is smarmy, charming, and in her eyes, utterly infuriating. Part talented smooth talker, part mystery, it’s easy to find yourself taken with Thomas– and easy to see why Audrey can’t just let his constant stream of cheeky remarks slide. But after investigating the murders with Audrey and Thomas turns into life-threatening murder accusations for Audrey’s uncle, the frenemy apprentices must come together to prove his innocence. But how do two teens shackled by culture and etiquette solve a serial murder happening in a troubled London neighborhood without raising suspicions?
The characters in this novel were a delight. Audrey is sharp, stubborn, but still realistically young and vulnerable. There are a lot of restrictions in her way, but she’s not afraid to take some risks. She takes plenty of them alongside Thomas, who might be our favorite character (and not because he’s the love interest). His lines and mannerisms are by far the most entertaining. Together, the two have a witty repertoire that makes you root for them.
The secondary cast of characters also intrigues, from Audrey’s distant father who blames silently her for her mother’s death to her brother Nate, who tries to compensate for their father’s coldness but still finds himself out of his depth. We especially loved Audrey’s cousin Liza, who lives like the proper lady she’s supposed to be but has a fierceness bubbling up under the surface in her own subversive way.
You might think that because of this, the story is relatively light. It’s not. Audrey and Thomas do investigations, not misadventures. In the wake of prostitutes being gutted in the street, everyone is suspect. The only real clues lie within mangled bodies and it’s clear that even the people closest to Audrey can’t be trusted. The story makes you delightfully paranoid and even though the culprit isn’t completely unfathomable, the full scope of the ending still comes as a shock.
Kerri Maniscalco’s debut is steeped in historical flair, but it has a pulse all its own. Unfortunately, that does cause historical inaccuracies that affect the story. While we loved Audrey’s audacity, we know it’s not at all realistic for the era. She angrily talks back to her father, her brother, the police superintendent, and pretty much anyone else who bothers her without consequence. She’s eventually allowed to practice forensic science in the public eye. Though there’s some sneaking about, she’s mostly able to move about London by herself without worry. She even threatens her father at one point and nothing comes of it. While the independent woman in us wants to scream “YAAAAAAS,” but we know that in relation to the time period, these elements of the story really don’t work despite their best intentions. Audrey’s struggle for respect would have been harder, but we might have respected the book more for it.
Though it slows a bit in the middle, we were really pleased with the pacing in this book and the careful unfolding of the big reveal. Things end on a surprisingly hopeful note and it was only then that we remembered this is the first book in a series. Can’t help but wonder what the characters will be up to on their next adventure!
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
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.