Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Length: 337 pages
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, Book 1
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Historical, Horror
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes” – he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper – “You’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.”
(Ch. , p. 66)
Audrey Rose, seventeen years old, was born the daughter of a lord into the life of luxury. Yet between the tea servings and silk dress fittings she hides a dark secret: she often slips away to her Uncle’s lab to practice the gruesome forensic sciences.
When her work on savagely murdered corpses sets her on the path of a serial killer, Audrey find herself searching for clues close to her own sheltered world.
The first time I read this book, it had just come out. I adored it right away. Years passed and I picked up the second and third books in the series – Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping From Houdini. Yet enough time had passed that I felt the need to reread Stalking Jack the Ripper before I continued on with the series.
For some reason, I thought that each story followed a different main character as they solved some of the biggest mysteries of all time. Thankfully I read the synopsis of Hunting Prince Dracula and realized my mistake. I wasn’t ready to give up Miss Audrey Rose just yet. Now knowing that she remains the main character throughout the series, I look forward to reading more about her and the mayhem she surrounds herself with.
One of the things that I loved the most about this story is how Audrey Rose isn’t afraid to be herself. Knowing that society looks down on women in general – let alone one that’s intent on learning forensic sciences – I’m glad to see that she never let society break her spirit. Especially since it seemed quite intent to do so at times. Instead, Audrey Rose continues to be true to herself and is willing to face any consequences of her actions.
As someone who’s not the biggest fan of Historical Fiction novels, I’m glad that I love this world as much as I do. Victorian England is a time in history that I’ve always been fascinated by and I do love seeing a strong female lead in this time period. The fact that this strong female lead was trying to solve the crime of the century – one I’ve been intrigued by for years – was just an added bonus.
Maniscalco does an amazing job at setting up a vibrant world with extraordinary characters. Her characters feel real; their emotions and motivations clear from the very beginning. Even when things are happening behind the scenes to characters, it’s clear that things aren’t always as calm and clear cut as they might seem.
Add to the list the real period photos interspersed in the story, and this novel becomes a well rounded piece of media. I found the pictures to be a great way to situate myself in the world of this book, to get myself as close to Audrey Rose’s head space as possible. I’m not always the biggest fan of photos being thrown into a story at random times, but Maniscalco did an amazing job at placing the photos at the most opportune time.
If you’re interested in Young Adult Mysteries, I’d highly recommend checking this story out if you haven’t done so already. I truly believe that this is a strong first book to the series. Knowing that it was Maniscalco’s debut novel impresses me all the more.
I can’t say enough how much I adored watching Audrey Rose and Thomas trying to solve the equation of the other person. Thomas’ puzzled faces when Audrey did something he didn’t expect made me smile every time. And Audrey misunderstanding Thomas’ motives was bitter sweet. Sweet because it showed how innocent her mind could be at times and bitter because society had shaped her mind – no matter how hard she might have rebelled against it – into being puzzled by someone like Thomas and making it nearly impossible for her to comprehend his flirting.
Part of me would love to see how Audrey and Thomas would try to flirt with each other in today’s society, but their chaste flirtations are too perfect to be messed with. They’d no doubt me scandalized by the way people flirt and go on dates unchaperoned in today’s day and age.
Their romance out of the way, I really did adore watching the two of them working together. While there were times they found it hard to trust each other, they really do make a strong team. I’ll also admit that part of me thought of Sherlock and Watson every time Thomas called her Wadsworth. He’s just so much better at taking a clinical look at things than Audrey is.
After how well things went in this book, I look forward to seeing how their work relationship continues to grow and change throughout the rest of the series. Audrey is already showing great promise at being able to put aside her personal reactions to the scenes she’s been facing and there’s no way solving a case involving a stranger is going to be more difficult than finding out her own flesh and blood is Jack the Ripper.
Maniscalco did a fantastic job at her take on the Jack the Ripper mystery. Making it so that Nathaniel was doing it as a twisted way to bring their mother back to life was a pretty interesting way to tie in Frankenstein to the narrative. This would’ve been a popular novel while Nathaniel and Audrey were growing up, making it quite plausible that he got his inspiration from it. Tied to the fact that he was so set on keeping up pristine appearances and his high standing in society, Nathaniel was in the perfect position to get away with the murders for as long as he did. Who was going to suspect a Lord’s son?
In his own twisted way, Nathaniel really was trying to do best by Audrey Rose. He was trying to bring their mother back for her, trying to bring her any comfort that he possibly could. And he started writing the letters to the police in order to help get their uncle out of Bedlam. Of course what he was doing was wrong and twisted, but it’s easy to see that Nathaniel thought he was doing the right thing. It’s hard to write a twisted mind so well, to make their motivations and logic so clear, and for this I applaud Maniscalco. She wrote Nathaniel beautifully.
As I’ve already pointed out, I’m not the biggest Historical Fiction fan. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t adore history itself. I do. I love learning about the events in the past and why people thought and acted the way they did. I love discovering theories and why they worked or didn’t. I love hearing about mysteries of ages past, both those that were solved and those that weren’t.
That’s why even before reading this book for the first time I already knew some things about Jack the Ripper. In fact, it’s the reason that I picked this book up in the first place. (And boy am I glad I did!)
This is what makes me so happy about how clear it is that Maniscalco did her research into the mystery before writing this novel. I adored seeing the parallels in the timeline between the real crimes and this novel. To see the killer be referred to as his true monikers of the time – Leather Apron and the Whitechapel Murderer. Emma Smith’s case truly happened and Maniscalco did a great job at making sure the events in her book were true to the original gruesome story.
While the world still doesn’t know who Jack the Ripper was, this was an incredibly interesting story about how the events could have unfolded. It’s easy to imagine a Lord’s son could get away with these murders. It’s easy to believe that he’d have the power and influence to cover this all up. It’s easy to picture that the killings stopped because the Ripper’s own life ended.
I look forward to continuing on with this series in the near future. Audrey Rose is one badass lady who’s going to take the world by storm.
What did you think of this book?