Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
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.
While not the best-written book I have ever read, Stalking Jack the Ripper sure was a lot of fun! There’s not enough books out there about Jack the Ripper in my opinion, and I’m glad Maniscalco gave this one such a fun twist.
As I said, this wasn’t a masterpiece. Don’t go into it expecting too much. The writing, especially the dialogue, was a little awkward. In particular I got tired of the characters referring to each other exclusively by their relationship (“Brother”, “Sister”, “Uncle”, etc.) every other sentence. Seriously, use your names. And the Red Herring was so obvious it may as well have had a neon sign pointing at it. It didn’t fool me for a second. As a result I figured out the real murderer quickly, which was a little disappointing. And the hate-to-love romance was awkwardly handled.
But for the most part I enjoyed this book anyway. Audrey Rose was a fun heroine. While the Victorian woman eschewing societal norms and going into science is starting to get a little cliche (this is the third book I’ve read published this year…), sending her into forensics made it feel fresh and entertaining. This is also mostly what earned the book a level 4 maturity rating. The descriptions of dissecting the dead were purposefully gruesome and icky, which led to the kind of dark, brooding mood appropriate for a Jack the Ripper book.
In fact, I rather loved all the characters. Thomas, so hilariously forward and confident. Uncle, eccentric and willing to let a girl into his lab. Father, phobic to a fault of germs and disease. I LOVED Audrey’s aunt and especially her cousin, society ladies with attitude.
Jack the Ripper himself was handled extremely well. Unsolved mysteries are always fun to read about, but easy to cheese up. I liked the idea that the police would be using early forensics to find the murderer, but that they would make basically no progress because, well, it was forensics in the 1800s. I really enjoyed how Maniscalco was able to incorporate Bedlam into her story.
And, clumsy as it may have been, I was crazy about the romance. I love historical fiction largely because I don’t have to worry about reading steamy sex scenes, but also because there is something so much more romantic about the butterflies you get in your stomach when your fingers accidentally touch. And, I don’t know, I so related to the way she could only ever insult her crush when he hinted at his feelings. I loved how she never took him seriously, and how major it was to her when she realized that maybe she should.
I am so glad that Stalking Jack the Ripper completely lived up to all the hype, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Hunting Prince Dracula. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good Victorian story.