Sorry for the slight delay with the posting of this review. I wrote out two different drafts and after much consideration I have decided to go with the **spoiler free** review, so that readers who decide to pick this novel up are given the same game of cat and mouse I was as I made my way through the chapters.
“Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco was a definite stand out for me when I was scoping my local bookstore looking for my next reads. The cover art is gorgeous and lush, and the mere mention of Jack the Ripper instantly hooked me. I was intrigued by the prospect of reading an updated take on a subject that has been historically stretched thin through the fiction and nonfiction genres, and after reading the jacket blurb and discovering that this would be from the perspective of a strong female protagonist, one who was both brainy, beautiful, and defiant… I was more than eager to take that journey. As her debut was also given the honor of being the first chosen for James Patterson’s new Imprint JIMMY Patterson Books, I had more than a good feeling this would be a worthwhile read.
The novel is told by narrator Audrey Rose Wadsworth, a young woman with highborn status, and proclivities unbecoming to a lady of her time; such as forensic science and dissection. Audrey is a fun juxtaposition as she both enjoys the fabrics and fashions of her day, but is equally invested in solving the Ripper murders and bringing justice to the victims. I found that this rounded out her character and made her much more believable and multidimensional. I am also a huge fan in general of strong, intelligent female leads, and felt that Audrey fit the bill. Even in moments where she may have been short sighted or acting in a way that was inherently dangerous, it always stemmed from a wish to prove to her deceased mother that she could be both beautiful and strong.
I enjoyed getting to know Audrey Rose and learning about her wish to pursue forensics. I was also happily surprised that amongst the cast of other characters only two (her father and her aunt) were opposed to her gaining this education. I also loved that by keeping a very small pool of characters it upped the suspense of the “whodunit” nature of the storyline, and at different parts of the novel had me trying my hand to piece together who I felt the Ripper was and why. I am happy to report that while in the end I was able to conjure up the correct perpetrator; the motives behind their actions and the overall ending were still incredibly stunning and not what I had imagined. I am even more glad to report that the Ripper was not my first or only pick while reading!
I also wanted to highlight the character of Thomas Cresswell in my review, as I have seen a lot of negative parallels drawn between him and Sherlock Holmes. Well folks, why is this a negative? Thomas encapsulates the idea of brain over all else. He can be socially off mark, he is brash and blunt, and he likes the satisfaction of showing off his tremendous intelligence. However, he treats Audrey as close to an equal as can be imagined, he never denies her contributions or her intelligence, and he pushes her to continue when at so many places along the narrative he could have fallen back on societal crutches and reminded her of a woman’s place. I even appreciated his tendency to call her “Wadsworth” much like he would a male colleague, even further leveling the playing field and allowing her to take up space in what may have been deemed socially only a “man’s place”. I personally loved his character and found him both a conundrum at times and a good lighthearted break at others. As someone who loves Sherlock Holmes and his cannon, I think that instead of shunning Thomas Cresswell for being too close to what I assume was his inspiration, admire him for the way he contributed to this novel.
Overall, I would highly recommend “Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco, and I look forward to reading her sophomore release. While this novel is classified in the YA genre, I find it still appealed to me as someone outside of the typical age range audience. Given how Autumn will officially be upon us next week, if you are looking for your next read, consider this gem!
P.S. Kerri, I think your Grandma would have absolutely loved it from beginning to very end!