by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #1
Published on September 20, 2016 by Jimmy Patterson
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult
He’s the infamous killer no man has ever been able to find.
Now it’s a girl’s turn.
Groomed to be the perfect highborn Victorian young lady, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has a decidedly different plan for herself. After the loss of her beloved mother, she is determined to understand the nature of death and its workings. Trading in her embroidery needle for an autopsy scalpel, Audrey secretly apprentices in forensics. She soon gets drawn into the investigation of serial killer Jack the Ripper, but to her horror, the search for clues brings her far closer to her sheltered world than she ever thought possible.
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Someone is haunting the streets of London and this time, they’d best let the women do their work. Specifically one woman, Miss Audrey Rose Wadsworth, an individual in possession of an unusual talent involving cadavers and blood. Stalking Jack the Ripper takes us back in time to the infamous murderer.
You know, the first thing I thought about this book was that it’d be a great Halloween read. I read an ARC so I’m not sure how the finished copy looks but mine had some pretty gruesome pictures scattered throughout (awesome, by the way). Between those and the overall feel of the book, it’s an excellent way to get into the holiday spirit.
As for the story itself, I truly went back in time to Victorian London where Audrey Rose is about as unconventional as a young woman can get, taking to her uncle’s practice of forensics work, slicing and dicing bodies. She’s a firecracker of a young woman, taking charge and not letting the men in her life stand in her way as she blows through London. Unlike most historical books I’ve read lately, Audrey Rose isn’t out husband-hunting to busy gossiping over tea. She wants to amount to something more than a pretty face and does whatever it takes. She doesn’t swoon over every guy she meets (though one in particular is pretty swoon-worthy). She investigates dead bodies and becomes a regular Sherlock Holmes.
Though I think the one to really capture the Holmes persona is her work partner and friend-of-sorts Thomas Cresswell, another apprentice of her uncle. He’s all good looks and snarky charm and very astute observations. A little odd, highly intelligent (and aware of it), he’s truly the Sherlock in this book. Their dynamic was both hilarious and serious to watch play out, and I think the way the romance was handles (yes, there’s a bit of romance, folks) was perfect. Not so subtle to be missed but definitely not an overwhelming force to shadow the murderous tale.
The story itself is riddled with mystery and gore. As Jack goes about his killing spree the apprentices Wadsworth and Cresswell are left to examine the remains, especially when Audrey Rose’s uncle is named a suspect and set to hang within days. Maniscalco keeps you on your feet with each twist, delving deeper into the Ripper era and bringing it to life through the eyes of Audrey Rose. Though not scary in the jump-in-your-seat sense, Stalking Jack the Ripper is certainly not for the faint of heart. You may want to adopt Cresswell’s honed ability to shut emotions off for some scenes as the mutilated bodies come to life.
Despite the setting, I never found the book difficult to fall in to. The author keeps the writing simple and as modern as any story about the Victorian era can be. You still felt immersed in the world without attempting to decipher token phrases and language usually added for an “authentic” feel. SJTR didn’t need them. At times, the plot did drag, falling into the realm of details and ever more details. My science mind appreciated the intricate level Maniscalco explores but my reader side wanted to keep moving ahead with the story.
By the end I was waiting for the grand finale, which came in a big reveal that wasn’t entirely surprising. The way the murderer’s identity is drawn out leaves plenty of time to guess who it is, and it’s done in a way that I found a bit cliche despite the rest of the story. BUT that didn’t take away from it and you’re left with an almost happily ever after that sits at odds with the rest of the book. You won’t find a huge cliffhanger with SJTR but it’s been listed as the first in a series and the ending leaves room to send the characters on another adventure.
I hope it’s as creeptastic as this one.
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