Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)
Published: Sept. 20, 2016 (Jimmy Patterson)
Purchased: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in Exchange for an honest review
Reviewed by: Jo
Rating (out of 5): 2.5 stars
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is not your average young Victorian lady. While she may enjoy beautiful clothes and balls, her real passion lies in the dead. Expressly against her father’s wishes, and very much in secret, Audrey has been apprenticing for her uncle, a prominent forensic scientist, studying the human body and learning the practices of autopsies.
When the first of a series of gruesome murder victims ends up on her uncle’s mortuary table, Audrey Rose is determined to uncover the truth behind who would commit such a heinous crime. If she can do it before her uncle’s infuriating, yet brilliant (read mini Sherlock), assistant Thomas, well alls the better. But as time goes on and the victims continue to be discovered, attention shifts to those closest to Audrey. Her home may not be the happiest since her mother died eight years ago—after nursing Audrey and as a result contracting Scarlet Fever—but she is determined to prove the authorities wrong.
I’m a big fan of Victorian London as a setting for books, whether that be romance, fantasy or mystery. Something about the fog-filled streets, rigid social etiquette, and in this case, nefarious dealings make for such a compelling mixture. Kerri Maniscalco invoked this setting really well, descriptions of the East End felt atmospheric and vivid, and I could almost see the blood soaking into the sawdust on the mortuary floor. Bedlam (the Bethlehem Royal Hospital) terrifies me, and Maniscalco’s imagining of it was no different.
Add in the case of Jack the Ripper, a mystery that still fascinates nearly 130 years later, and you can color me intrigued. However, because on these very reasons, the idea of a seventeen year old girl having so much access to this investigation felt pretty implausible to me. Yes, Audrey comes to be involved because of her uncle but I still really struggled to believe that she would be called to crime scenes over trained, and much more experienced, members of Scotland Yard.
The other main issue… Audrey as a character. I liked that she was proud of her intelligence, that she had a passion to prove her capability. I also really appreciated that this didn’t automatically mean her character shunned anything ‘feminine’, that it wasn’t a case of either/or. I felt her frustration at the restraints she faced just because of her sex (even if this message bordered on repetitive in the writing), particularly under such an overbearing father. Saying all that though, I kinda sorta didn’t like her. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly… maybe somewhere along the way she went from capable and tipped over into naively arrogant? I’m not sure. At times it felt like she lacked empathy and was more concerned with proving she was right, often in a reckless way.
Thomas, Audrey’s investigative ‘partner’ and love interest, was equally difficult to like. He came across as condescending and arrogant, although at least this was directed at everyone and not just Audrey. As a pair, I found it pretty hard to be invested in their romance.
The plot moved slowly to begin with but picked up toward the last half, with plenty of sleuthing and red herrings along the way. I normally utterly rubbish at guessing who the murder is but (as Christen from Goldilox and the Three Weres can attest to, as I buddy read this with her) I figured it out pretty early on. I would also have liked to see a bit more detail and focus placed on the Ripper case itself.
I initially didn’t realize Stalking Jack the Ripper was the first in a series, but now I’ll left wondering if I’ll pick up the second book in September? Answer: I’m not sure. While I did have quite a few issues with this, I did enjoy the writing style and maybe I’ll warm to the characters more as they mature.
Sexual content: kissing