Who was Jack the Ripper?
Spoiler alert: that's the question investigated in Kerri Maniscalco’s YA novel Stalking Jack the Ripper. Part mystery, part horror novel, Maniscalco’s book took me on an adrenaline ride that was somehow horrifying and fun, and perfect for an October day spent tucked into my quiet house and far away from the nineteenth-century London that Jack the Ripper prowled.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth, gentle-born and lovely, loves fashion and conducting autopsies on the bodies sent to her famous scientist uncle’s lab. He’s teaching her the secrets of the dead, and she’s an enthusiastic learner.
When a serial killer begins stalking London’s streets, Audrey Rose is scared, disgusted, and angry, especially when someone in her family is accused of being the killer. So she’s off on the case, without her family’s permission or not, and her investigative partner is Thomas Cresswell, a young man similarly interested in the dead and what they have to say.
Can Audrey Rose and Thomas figure out who the murderer is before he kills again? And could Audrey Rose possibly know the real Jack the Ripper?
Audrey Rose is the intrepid YA heroine we’ve come to know and love, but in a fresh spin, she's attracted to scientific inquiry--specifically in the study of dead bodies--that I don't remember seeing before. She’s supremely competent and observant, and confident enough to pursue what she loves, even if it’s considered unfashionable at the least and immoral at the worst. She’s at her most confident when she’s battling Thomas, a determined, intelligent man who offers deductions about the murders and the world around them a la Sherlock Holmes. The chemistry between them deliciously propels the plot forward, as they race to solve the mystery and get to know each other along the way.
Stalking Jack the Ripper is by no means flippant, particularly in regards to the murders, but other parts of the book are rendered in such graphically visceral ways that they’re almost gleefully dramatic. This book is a sparkling, over-the-top feast of the senses that hooked me in and invited me to speculate on one of the great historical questions of our time, but that doesn’t lose its compassion for the victims of Jack of Ripper in the process.
Join me for another October-themed review next Friday!
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