Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Published: September 20th 2016
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.
“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”
Before I read it, Stalking Jack The Ripper ticked all the boxes. A murder mystery set in Victorian times; a villain who isn’t entirely fictional, and a protagonist who prefers cutting bodies instead of sandwiches. But having such high expectations to begin with meant a greater chance I’d be left disappointed. I wasn’t entirely let down, but it was rather underwhelming considering the genre.
I actually enjoyed it for the most part. The plot was engaging and gripping. There was nothing more exciting than stalking a serial killer around London, even though this stalking merely entailed following the clues he left behind.
The author does a great job in capturing the history as well as placing the reader within the story. It’s impressive that the narrative is woven around actual dates, victims and other small details, with slight modifications made when necessary. This, along with the occasional images, gave it a sense of realism. The vivid description when regarding the victim’s bodies made for a disturbing and frightening read. I actually felt like I was an intruder looking down at something I shouldn’t.
Our protagonist, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, is the daughter of a Lord. Going against societal norms and traditional gender roles, she lets her uncle secretly tutor her in the forensic arts without her father’s knowledge. I felt like I could relate to Audrey on many levels. Though the novel is set in another era, her struggles mirror an existing reality for many girls around the world today, and I hope that they will feel inspired by Audrey’s courage as much as I do.
Audrey is also biracial, and though her heritage is occasionally mentioned in reference to her Indian grandmother it had no impact on the story or her character. I’m really hoping it’s not just an example of tokenism and that it’s explored further in the next book with more explicit references.
Despite my initial fondness of Audrey, I quickly grew to find her rather obsessive, in a bad way. Her thoughts were constantly occupied by blood and corpses which gave her little time to think about anything else, such as courting. Luckily for her, under her uncle’s apprenticeship, she is acquainted with the witty and intelligent Thomas Cresswell who I found borderline irritating for most of the novel. That being said, I liked the slow burn of their relationship and I think they make a great duo.
Overall, I guess I was expecting something more from this novel. It sounded promising, but it just didn’t deliver. I will most likely read the next instalment, Hunting Prince Dracula, because I believe, as a series, it has the potential to develop into something I’ll thoroughly enjoy. Right now, I’m just a little unsure.