Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Rating: 2 Stars
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Genre: YA Historical Fiction / Murder Mystery
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.
I was so excited for this book it’s almost pathetic. Doesn’t it look fantastic?? A Victorian murder mystery about a creepy serial killer?? My excitement for Stalking Jack the Ripper tripled after reading The Diviners by Libba Bray and professing my undying love for it in this (shamelessly) self-promoted review. Sadly, I was disappointed in Stalking Jack the Ripper in almost every way.
I felt like this book was trying too hard. Too hard to make Audrey Rose a modern, feminist, (more on that in juuust a bit) too hard to make Thomas Cresswell charming and swoony, and too hard to make the story and villains creepy and unnerving. The result was a silly, over-dramatic story that could not hold my attention.
The characters all felt so two-dimensional. Audrey Rose had no personality except for her feminism. Cresswell could have been charming and swoony, but the extremely dramatic and overdone way in which his character was written just made him annoying. Also, I was not convinced at all of the instalovey romance between Audrey Rose and Cresswell. (Also, for some reason I can’t stop picturing him as a nerd wearing tiny glasses, which is really uncomfortable and NOT what the author intended. It’s quite awkward.) And the other characters were even more flat. None of them felt like real people; the relationship between Audrey Rose and her father felt contrived and cliche, the villain was comically evil, etc. I mean, he actually said things like, “I’m going to kill you, heehee!!” No joke. Basically, all the characters managed to be both extremely overdone personality wise AND underdeveloped characterization wise, which makes absolutely no sense.
The plot could not hold my attention. I don’t know if that’s because the characters were so frustrating to me or if the story really is just boring. But I kind of dreaded coming back to this book because it was 1) really predictable, 2) dull, and 3) overly gruesome.
Look, the whole thing with Audrey Rose and her uncle dissecting bodies to find the killer was really quite clever. Except, there is a certain point where gruesome details start getting a little old. Maybe if the book had more substance in terms of characterization and plotting I wouldn’t have minded, but after a while the book felt like there was no point to it except for how gory it was.
And that ending. It was quite touching – or at least it would have been if I didn’t feel like I’d just had a bunch of fake sugar and sweetness and OH THE DRAMA shoved down my throat. (“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy familyyyy!!”) Plus, it was totally contrived and, based on the rest of the story, was not convincing at all.
This next section is probably going to make me very unpopular – which is unfortunate, as it is just my opinion. But read ahead if you’d like!
My biggest issue with the book was Audrey Rose’s extremely unrealistic and forced feminism.
Because here’s the thing. It’s okay to make your heroine a feminist. But it is NOT okay to POUND THE READER OVER THE HEAD WITH AND SHOVE DOWN THEIR THROATS HOW MUCH OF A FEMINIST YOUR MAIN CHARACTER IS.
(Yes, I am quite perturbed at the moment.)
See, it’s one thing to make your heroine a feminist, but you don’t have to tell the reader 72365125 thousand times!! I felt like I constantly got into the story, only to be jerked out by a statement that wasn’t really necessary in that specific moment. It just got really annoying after a while.
Also, yes, feminism existed in the late 1800s – but not in the exact same way it does now. That’s why I like books like The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman and These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly; the female main characters of those books question the mindset of their times, and work to overcome that mindset themselves, which is much more realistic and infinitely more compelling. Sadly, Stalking Jack the Ripper did not have any of that character growth; it felt like Audrey Rose and her mindset had been plucked from the 21st century and transported to Victorian England.
Back to the non-controversial part of my review!! Hooray!
This book isn’t all bad. It was entertaining (when it wasn’t aggravating) and I finished it, so that’s saying something. Also, it gave me a reason to be snarky, which I enjoy way too much.
If you’re still here after that long and ranty review, have you read this book? What did you think about it? What is one thing that really frustrates you in a book?
Content Guide: There is only occasional light profanity, but this is definitely a book for older teens. It is frequently gory, and some fairly graphic and vivid details of dissected corpses and organs etc. are given.