Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m starting to like creepy stories. Stalking Jack the Ripper certainly falls into that category. I picked up this book from the new releases shelf at Barnes and Noble because  it had an interesting cover. (This seems to be a pattern…) After I read the blurb, I decided I needed to read it. Stalking Jack the Ripper was an intriguing mystery thriller and I especially enjoyed the way it wove history with the author’s creative license.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is supposed to be a proper Victorian lady. After her mother dies, Audrey Rose decides she needs to understand the inner workings of death. Therefore, she begins an apprenticeship with her Uncle Wadsworth, a respected, if sometimes feared, forensic scientist. With a germophobe for a father, and a nervous brother, Audrey Rose has to hide her deepening love for slicing open cadavers. When murders begin occurring around her neighborhood, and Uncle Wadsworth is brought in to investigate, Audrey Rose is thrown into the terrifying world of Jack the Ripper and begins a relentless search to find who is committing such heinous crimes.

Audrey Rose is a character that I think young adults can look up to. She's courageous, thoughtful, driven, and isn’t afraid to break the expectations that other people place on her life. Maniscalco does a wonderful job of creating a main character who is relentless but also has human shortcomings. Audrey Rose fearlessly slices open the dead and will stand in a puddle of congealing blood, but when the last Ripper murder occurs, she understandably loses her lunch. The other characters that the author introduces into Audrey Rose’s life are as real as her protagonist. Her father is an understandable germophobe who wants to protect his family at all costs, her brother is the one person Audrey Rose can rely on for support, her uncle is as professional as the day is long and a terrific mentor for her budding scientific curiosity, and Thomas brings a sense of comedic relief to the reader.

I enjoyed the world that Maniscalco created for her characters, too. The Wadsworth family lives in proximity to the Ripper murders and all the restrictions of Victorian society are included in the story. There are even realistic elements of steam technology scattered throughout the story. I appreciated that the author included the location, neighborhood, and date at the beginning of each chapter because the story jumps around through different times and places, I found that information helpful.

While I really liked the characters and the story, I was occasionally yanked out of it for various reasons. In my opinion, this could have used another pass through a critique group in regards to the plot. At the end of the story, during the big reveal (and no spoilers here, I promise), I had difficulty keeping track of the characters in the room. I tend to think of it as “cardboard cutout syndrome.” While Audrey Rose was mentally pulling all the pieces together to solve her puzzle (which seemed to take a really long time), the Big Baddie seemed to be just standing around waiting for her to finish thinking. That didn’t work for me.

I also felt that some of the elements of the story were thrown in because someone said they had to be. Every now and then, Audrey Rose goes into detail about what she’s wearing, the tea parties her aunt makes her attend, and the mundane details of her life and the story's setting.

Finally, when the Big Baddie is revealed, Audrey Rose asks the person a question about a piece of evidence that was found at the crime scenes. When she asks the person why the evidence was left behind, they say, “I simply left them where I’d dropped them.” I’ll tell you this: the Big Baddie is an intelligent and methodical character. I couldn’t believe he would just leave these clues behind without a calculated purpose.

These issues aside, I thought this was a good debut novel! Maniscalco has a talent for world building and character creation, even if they come up a little short in this particular novel. Based on what was said at the end of this story, I am looking forward to Audrey Rose’s next adventure.

Emily is looking forward to Mile High con.

2 comments:

  1. I'll add it to my list. I love anachronistic “CSI” type stories.

    I have notes for a mystery novel set at the end of the “black death” that has an investigative team consisting of a thief, a defrocked monk, a hunter and a young orphaned noble. Initially I was thinking a standalone, but could see the possibilities for a series.

    Tangentially, James Patterson has a novel written with Andrew Gross title “The Jester” that takes place during the crusades. If you haven’t read it, you might want to check it out.

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    1. Your "Black Death" story sounds amazing! Get on that! :)

      I just put "The Jester" on hold at the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

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