Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), by Kerri Maniscalco
Publish Date: September 20, 2016
Published by: Jimmy Patterson Books
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Mystery
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
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 debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
I’m not really big on mysteries to be honest (and yet I ended up reading two at the same time somehow), so I wasn’t completely sure I would be interested in this. But, I love all things that take place in Victorian England, plus Jack the Ripper is grotesquely interesting to read about, so I thought I might enjoy this (plus I also got the ARC of Hunting Prince Dracula at BookCon so…kind of felt like I should at least give it a try).
Turns out, I kind of loved it! The story follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth, one those “not like other girls” kind of heroines who prefers stitching up dead bodies after examining them to stitching embroidery into napkins, as she dives into the case of “Leather Apron”, or as we know him today, Jack the Ripper. It’s fast-paced, full of great characters and relationships, and of course, lots of mystery and intrigue.
I thought the story itself was wonderfully written for the the most part. It moved at a decent pace, keeping the reader on edge despite knowing what was in store, and filling the plot with great characterization and relationship growth. There were mysteries abound, in both the case of Jack the Ripper and in characters themselves, keeping everything fresh and interesting as new questions came into light.
It wasn’t perfect, unfortunately, as a lot of creative liberties were taken by the author (which she admitted to in an Author’s Note at the end of the book) and while I’m sure most people are fine glossing over them, I read another book that dealt with the Jack the Ripper murders (The Name of the Star , by Maureen Johnson), and though that does not make me an expert on the subject matter at all, there were enough inconsistencies that I noticed that had me confused at times. I brushed it off, but I still felt mildly annoyed.
One such liberty was the inclusion of the Barnum & Bailey circus act that Audrey Rose goes to see with her brother, Nathaniel. Not only did it not occur in the year this book takes place (1888, when the circus came in 1889), but to me it felt a little unnecessary to the plot. All it served was a means to make Nathaniel feel like he was helping his sister be a little happy again, only for it to be interrupted by the Jack the Ripper case again, cutting the happy night short and honestly just making the entire scene feel like it could have been cut entirely.
On another note, there was a specific plot point that felt like it was completely forgotten about after a specific incident occurred related to it. While I can infer some answers about that particular mystery (I’m talking about Thornley and Alistair) based on the revelations at the end, it was never specifically brought back up and so things are left a little muddled with the answers being more along the line of “could have been” than definitively.
It was a little predictable – I kind of guessed who Jack was about halfway through – but the motive felt a little strange and out there for the character. I figured out why he was choosing his particularly victims correctly, but not the complete reason as to why he was killing and maiming their bodies as he did. In fact, when the revelation came, his actions and demeanor compared to how he had acted prior felt very out of character. I know this can be attributed to Audrey Rose’s perspective of the situation, and to the idea that people aren’t as they seem, but there are usually more behaviors shown that would make this kind of revelation make sense, I think.
As for the characters, I really did enjoy Audrey Rose and her constant determination to assist in the case despite what her father and society wanted from her, and her compassion for the victims of Jack the Ripper. Her relationships with those surrounding her really defined the book as a whole, as they grew and changed over the course of the novel, without them ever really changing her own desires for her goals in life. My only issue is with Maniscalco’s writing of Audrey Rose’s feminist views: I completely agreed with her on everything, but they were just a little too straightforward – a little too much “tell” when it could have been more “show”.
Thomas Cresswell came off being a little bit too much Sherlock Holmes-ian at first, with his deducing and arrogance, but he slowly grew on me and showed much deeper levels to his character throughout the novel. I loved his relationship growth with Audrey Rose, and that he became a little softer as the book wore on. The other characters had just as much depth and growth as well throughout the book, and were all interesting and intriguing to read about and grow to understand.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I especially enjoyed reading about Audrey Rose and Thomas. The plot moved decently and kept me captivated the entire time, while the characters really brought the story to life. Despite a few issues with historical accuracy and some plot holes that needed filling, I still really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to dive into Hunting Prince Dracula!
Beat the Backlist | Books Completed Toward Goal: 16/24