Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Length: 435 pages
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, Book 2
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Historical, Horror
Publication date: September 19, 2017
We were all here to learn. He was the one who had a problem, not I. Perhaps it was time for fathers to teach their sons how to behave around young women. They were not born superior, no matter how society falsely conditioned them. We were all equals here.(Ch 7, p. 69)
Following the revelation of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the charmingly arrogant Thomas Cresswell, Audrey journeys to Romania to join one of Europe’s best schools on forensic medicine.
When blood soaked discoveries start being made in the school’s foreboding castle, Audrey’s once again compelled to investigate. The investigation isn’t all fun and games, though, as Audrey learns she must also face her past and her fears in order to solve the case.
One of the things I love most about this series is how strong of a personality Audrey is. It couldn’t have been easy being a feminist in Victorian era Europe but that never stopped her from doing what she felt strongly about. Her father has finally seem the error of his ways in trying to lock her up and has let her attend this school for forensic medicine, but even he isn’t as progressive as Audrey needs him to be. Thankfully he’s not around to see what kind of mayhem Audrey gets herself into.
I really do enjoy the fact that Thomas is there for her whenever she’s going through things. While his attempts to be helpful are often misguided, he’s doing everything in his power to try to be there for her. Of course, he’s very out of his depths while doing so, causing his efforts to have adverse effects on his relationship with her. But of course, what’s a good YA romance without a little conflict here and there?
As with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Maniscalco does a fantastic job at pulling the reader into the world she’s created. It’s almost as if you’re there with Audrey as she explores the castle and tries to solve this latest case in Bran Castle. Who wouldn’t want to face hidden tunnels and dark secrets deep in the earth? To face their fears in the most visceral sense? No, just me? Cool.
More than anything, I really enjoyed being fully immersed in this tale with all of its twists and turns. Sure some of the twists were obvious but it was still fun to join the ride. The clues are laid out wonderfully in this story, making it that much sweeter when the truth is revealed. Reading a book with a writing style I adore always makes the read that much more enjoyable.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun and mostly lighthearted mystery – with a touch of the gruesome thrown in there – you should check out this series. YA mysteries might not be your favourite cup of tea, but Maniscalco write this series in a way that transcends the typical YA tropes and brings light to this dark story.
Thomas nearly broke my heart as he kept misunderstanding Audrey’s intentions. He kept trying to help her out since he could see how much pain she was in after the Jack the Ripper case, but instead of helping he kept hurting their relationship. Audrey was already rebelling against the idea of needing a man to help her get through life, of being this fragile little flower that should be seen and not heard. It makes sense that he was trying to help her the only way he knew how, but it was hard to watch how wrong his “help” was going.
In a similar strain to this, Thomas pretending to be dead in the castle’s morgue – and thereby playing a prank on Audrey – certainly didn’t end up the way he’d hoped it would. I’m sure that if he’d done this before Audrey found out that her brother was Jack the Ripper she would’ve reacted the same way that he expected her to. Alas, in her inability to face her grief head on or even put a name to it, she wasn’t acting the way she normally would have.
As much as their relationship was on rocky ground in this book, it truly made them a stronger couple. It proved that even through their very deepest lows they were going to be there for each other. Thomas was willing to climb the roof to get to Audrey and continue their investigation. If that doesn’t say commitment, I don’t know what does.
Their little confession session at the end of the book was a really sweet way to show their connection and how strong their bond was, too.
Moving away from their relationship, the other relationships in the story were extremely interesting as well. While I saw the major twist coming – that Anastasia was going to be the “Prince Dracula” that Audrey and Thomas were hunting – I still really enjoyed the way that this was all written. The missing girl that looked extraordinarily like her, how obviously she was keeping secrets from Audrey, and her disappearing into the night were all prime clues for the reader to suss out her identity. Yet my favourite was the clue that she was a descendant of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, or the Countess Dracula.
It must suck for Audrey, investigating two separate crimes that end up being committed by people she was close to. Yes, discovering her brother was Jack the Ripper had to hit harder than her new friend being a killer with a plot to take over Romania with Thomas, but neither could have been easy. Audrey was just learning to open her heart again, to let someone into her world, and then Anastasia goes ahead and hurts her. It’s amazing that Audrey decided to let Thomas get closer to her and didn’t end up freezing him out completely.
Meeting Thomas’ sister and Ileana must have helped mitigate the sorrow that Audrey felt with Anastasia’s betrayal – especially when Anastasia admitted to thinking about killing Audrey. However, Daciana and Ileana prove that it’s possible for Audrey to make real female friends – apart from her cousin, of course – and have them not end up being psychopaths. They might not have played the most prominently visible part in the story, but they certainly played a large part behind the scenes of things.
And, of course, their relationship was a great thing to witness. For Victorian era Europe it couldn’t have been easy to be in a same sex relationship – even if you worked exceptionally hard to keep it a secret from those around you. Yet neither female let the pressures of society get to them or force them apart. Being part of a secret society must also have been fun. Well, minus all the death that seems to come with the territory…
All of that being said, I look forward to continuing on with this series. Maniscalco has done a fantastic job at creating a world I’d happily visit… as long as I stay far away from the killers that Audrey seems to find herself following. Who knows what misadventures she’s going to get herself into next?
Other reviews for this series:
- Stalking Jack the Ripper (Book 1)