Book: Stalking Jack The Ripper
Author: Keri Maniscalco
BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Audrey Rose has very few conversations with other female characters and they all revolve around men.
I specifically saved this book up to read during the Autumn, even though I don’t usually plan my reads around the seasons, just because pretty much everything about this book screams “dark Autumn night”, which made it perfect for my September #RockMyTBR read. I’d generally heard really good things about this book, and I’m happy to say I really enjoyed it, I thought it was an interesting take on the Jack The Ripper murders, with a compelling protagonist, even if it was slightly slow paced at times. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
My favourite thing about this book was definitely the protagonist. Audrey Rose was a great main character, she was smart and witty and curious and I just really loved her. Did she have a tendency to put herself in dangerous situations without thinking? Yes. But I loved that she wanted to stretch the boundaries of what was expected from women in that time and refused to accept the limitations that people wanted to place on her. I also loved that she was a woman interested in science, because women in STEM are rare enough in contemporary fiction, let alone historical and that she was both interested in autopsies and forensic science, whilst not shunning traditional feminine things.
I have to say though, I was disappointed by the lack of other women surrounding Audrey in the book. We have her aunt and her cousin, but they make only fleeting appearances, for most of the book, Audrey is surrounded by her male relatives and Thomas. I think it’s kind of an easy way out, a way to pay lip service to your book being “feminist” without actually doing the work, you have the token woman who is pushing the boundaries of her society, but she can be the only one. The other female characters in the book are all underdeveloped and barely there, which really disappointed me.
Audrey Rose is also mentioned as having Indian heritage, but again, this seemed to be just paid lip service to, and considering that at that point, Britain had colonised India, it seemed like something that should have been explored more. The Timekeeper trilogy had a character with similar heritage, Daphne, and her connection to that was explored much more and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the book that did it better was written by a biracial author, and this one was not.
I loved the banter between Audrey Rose and her love interest, Thomas Cresswell, I thought that was done really well, and you all know what a sucker I am for great dialogue, especially when it’s witty banter! Thomas himself though, I did find incredibly irritating at times, most reviewers seemed to really love him but I thought he was kind of a jerk through most of the book, though he did grow on me toward the end. I didn’t mind their romance, but at the same time, I would have been happy enough if they’d just been friends.
I liked that Audrey Rose’s family was involved in the story, so often in YA, we don’t really get to see the characters’ parents (though I might be biased here because I read a lot of fantasy and nine times out of ten, the parents are dead), and here, her father, brother and uncle were actually pretty integral to the plot, which I thought was great.
I loved how the book included pictures from the actual time period, including Jack The Ripper’s actual letters, I thought that was such a cool touch and really added to my reading experience.
Like I mentioned up top, the pacing did lag in places, but I actually didn’t really mind that too much? Some chapters were a little over long and I felt as I was getting to the conclusion of the book that it probably could have been shortened a little, but overall, it was actually a pretty fast read for me, and even when it was a little slow, I was intrigued enough by the mystery that I didn’t really mind.
I enjoyed the writing style, I thought it fitted the dark, macabre tone of the book, although I did think some of the descriptions were a little bit gory for me, but that’s nothing on the author’s ability, just that I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to blood and gore! I also liked that it fitted the time period of the book, there might have been some anachronisms here and there, but by and large, the language was appropriate to the time which I appreciated, because 1888 teenagers are obviously not going to speak or think the same way as 2019 ones!
I loved the chapter titles, too few books do chapter titles and the ones here were really great, I love it when chapter titles take a line from the chapter because I spend the entire chapter searching for the title and feel such a sense of satisfaction when I do!
As for the mystery itself, the suspect list is kind of limited, for reasons I can’t really explain without giving it away, so in that respect, the reveal wasn’t necessarily that surprising because there were only so many people that it could be. However, I was really surprised by the motives of the killer, because I did not see that coming. I’m not sure how scientifically probable the Ripper’s plan was, it seemed a little outlandish and improbable to me, but then again I’m not a scientist, so how would I know?
I found the blurb quite misleading although I can’t really explain why without giving away massive spoilers but let’s just say it had me completely on the wrong track for a while, and I don’t know whether that was intentional, or whether I just completely misinterpreted what it meant!
In terms of the historical accuracy, generally it’s quite decent, Maniscalco has definitely done her research into the Ripper murders and she explains the historical liberties that she took in her author’s note at the end. She did have a tendency to have Audrey Rose “predict” future events, like stating the first organ transplant would happen, which Audrey would have no way of knowing, and her attitude to Thomas smoking is pretty anachronistic since at the time, people did not know that smoking was bad for you.
The ending was way too easy, I felt like it wrapped up without making any of the characters have to face the difficult choices that the book had been building up to, so I was a little disappointed in that. It did however wrap up in a way that was satisfying as a standalone, but also left you wanting more, so I appreciated that. I know that there are three more books in the series, but I’m assuming they all follow the idea of a standalone mystery which is wrapped up by the end of the book, which I quite like.
Overall, I really enjoyed this historical mystery, it was an interesting take on an unsolved mystery, with a compelling protagonist and gripping writing and I look forward to seeing where Audrey Rose and Thomas go in the next book.
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of my October #RockMyTBR book, The Last Namsara, by Kristen Ciccarelli.