Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Published September 20, 2016
Stalking Jack the Ripper is a story about a young woman ahead of her time. While most upper-class Victorian girls find their minds occupied with thoughts of dress shopping, tea parties, and finding prospective husbands, Audrey Rose chooses to focus her thoughts elsewhere. Namely, on studying forensics and performing post-mortems. While apprenticing under her uncle, Audrey Rose comes across a victim of Leather Apron (a.k.a Jack the Ripper) and decides to put her skills and her smarts to the test in an effort to find the soon-to-be-infamous murderer and bring him to justice.
As soon as I see that a book is set in the Victorian era, I am immediately intrigued. And Stalking Jack the Ripper did not let me down. My favourite part of this book has to be the writing itself. The language is elegant and beautifully descriptive, which seems to me to go hand in hand with the era in which the book is set. I also very much enjoyed the dark, creepy atmosphere. From the workshop of Audrey Rose’s uncle—with its blood-and-sawdust-coated floor, walls lined with specimen jars, and numerous cadavers—to the grimy, sinister streets of London’s east end, this book is rife with delightfully eerie imagery.
I liked Thomas’s character a lot. With his quick wit and dazzling deduction skills, Thomas very much reminded me of a young Sherlock Holmes. He is able to shut off his emotions seemingly at will and can instead focus on taking the logical approach to solving a problem. While this ability makes him undeniably brilliant, it also alienates him from society, who chooses to view him as bizarre or even monstrous, rather than gifted. This is a connection that both he and Audrey Rose share. As the daughter of a Lord, there are certain behavioral expectations that Audrey Rose must adhere to in order to remain prim and proper in the eyes of society at large and in the eyes of many members of her own family. As far as they are concerned, her chosen profession casts her in a bad light—a bad light which a future husband may not find flattering.
This is a YA novel, so naturally there has to be some form of love/hate relationship thrown into the mix. While I usually find this aspect of most YA novels to be a little on the tedious side, with Audrey Rose and Thomas, I thought it worked. The two of them are working together to find and stop a murderer before he strikes again. The situation is tense, and no one (particularly Audrey Rose) knows exactly who to trust, Thomas included. And yet she is inexorably drawn to him, and he to her.
Thomas values her intellect in a world where women of Audrey Rose’s station are expected to tend to the household and little else. She brings out some of the emotions he wishes to keep restrained; and he both unsettles and intrigues her, all the while encouraging her to flourish in those same intellectual pursuits which others may demonize her for. They are a really good match.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable reading experience and I can’t wait to dive into part two!