Book Review

Stalking Jack The Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper

  • Author: Kerri Maniscalco
  • Genre: YA Historical Fiction
  • Publication Date: September 20, 2016
  • Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
  • Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #1

CONTENT WARNING: gore, blood, murder, misogyny, addiction, death of a parent, death, institutionalization, forced drugging, violence

Rating: 5 out of 5.

He’s the infamous killer no man has ever been able to find. Now it’s a girl’s turn.

Groomed to be the perfect highborn Victorian young lady, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has a decidedly different plan for herself. After the loss of her beloved mother, she is determined to understand the nature of death and its workings. Trading in her embroidery needle for an autopsy scalpel, Audrey secretly apprentices in forensics. She soon gets drawn into the investigation of serial killer Jack the Ripper, but to her horror, the search for clues brings her far closer to her sheltered world than she ever thought possible.

Inspired by the infamously unsolved case, this dazzling debut by Kerri Maniscalco weaves an atmospheric tale of beauty and darkness in which a remarkably modern Victorian girl discovers that some buried secrets simply won’t stay dead.

This was an incredible book, and even more impressive as a debut for Kerri Maniscalco. It’s a merging of historical fiction and romance, and toes the line into horror without being the kind that’ll give me nightmares. And it happens to delve into one of the most fascinating and terrifying periods of history for me — the unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper. 

Maniscalco crafts an intriguing narrative with Audrey Rose. She’s a young woman who lost her mother, and lives under the increasingly chafing rule of her father. While her father tries to protect her to the best of her abilities, she’s also expected to follow the repressive social norms that dictate what “appropriate behavior” is for society women of the times, and it’s so clearly at odds with what Audrey wants. Which is extremely unusual for her times. You see, Audrey wants to work in forensics, which is a touchy subject for even men to deal with. At that time, women are expected to look pretty, sew, and marry well. While Audrey describes it at “having chains put on me,” her peers view it differently, and she’s shocked:

“‘Why ever would a girl choose anything over beauty? A wife should abide by her husband in all matters. Let him do the thinking.’ Both Regina and Hazel nodded at that dreadful sentiment …”

This isn’t a book for people with sensitive stomachs. In fact, the book starts with a rather detailed description of an autopsy that Audrey is conducting under the supervision of her uncle. And so begins her entanglement with the Jack the Ripper case. She brings a completely different view to the case, with her emotional awareness, and her understanding that the women are more than simply victims, but women who had people who knew them and loved them. 

“Between my desire for Uncle’s approval and my connection to Miss Nichols, I was determined to help solve this case.”

Naturally, there’s more going on in the story. There’s a delicious sexual tension building in the form of enemies (or more accurately, rivals) to lovers, which was done exquisitely well. The only problem is that Audrey is slowly developing a suspect pool from the people around her. And with so many shady men in her inner circle, we don’t quite know who the killer could be, mainly because each of them have doubt cast upon them. 

“At times the darkness in his eyes terrified me more than the dead we butchered.”

I enjoyed seeing what felt a lot like early profiling, before criminal profiling was even a concept. They developed a profile of Jack: identifying his methods, then deducing his motivations and why he chose the women he did, as well as why he killed and mutilated the bodies in the way that he did. It was fascinating to watch, almost like a Victorian version of Mindhunter. In addition, Audrey was a paragon of feminism, and I loved that she is biracial and highlights both sides of her heritage. She flat out said that she enjoyed dressing nicely and being feminine (wearing both gorgeous silk dresses and saris), but also enjoyed forensics and autopsies. I loved seeing her face down men and show her strength, ability, and confidence, but it was tough to see her struggle with societal expectations that she couldn’t always fight against:

“Every male in my life felt it necessary to put chains on me, and I despised it.”

I loved the characters, and the way the story was told. I felt transported right back in time to Victorian London. It was easy to put myself right into Audrey’s shoes, especially since she embodies a lot of modern thought, although the times didn’t exactly match up with her ideals and ambitions. I’m absolutely on my way to the library to dive right into the next book in this series, to follow along with her story. I’m completely hooked.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 11

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