Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
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.
The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
I rated Stalking Jack the Ripper 3/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
I was largely underwhelmed by Stalking Jack the Ripper. With all the rave reviews on Goodreads, I expected this book to be an impeccable historical fiction with a dark, gothic twist. I couldn’t wait to dig into protagonist Audrey Rose’s story and read about a badass young woman performing postmortems and catching murderers in between luncheon and high tea. I expected sheer awesome, but what I got was nothing more than average.
Audrey Rose was consistently inconsistent. At the beginning of the book, she raved about her surgical pursuits and the awful way proper society has handcuffed her as a woman. She wanted nothing but freedom to practice medicine with her uncle, but enter her cousin Liza and Audrey Rose is privy to experiment with makeup and appreciate the finer things in life she formerly detested. It’s one thing to understand beauty and it’s another thing to hate femininity one day and love it the next. If her perspective on life had been somewhat constant, I might have related to her better.
Maniscalco tries to portray Audrey Rose as a feminist: she’s a woman with modern ideals who takes what she wants and keeps no prisoners. However, her vague attempts at feminist undertones were ill-placed and didn’t fit well in the culture of 1880’s London. If Audrey Rose were raised properly, she would still not hold the contemporary view of feminist portrayed in the book. Dissecting bodies is a believable type of rebellion, but her outbursts regarding the relative weakness of men were unconvincing.
The budding romance between Audrey Rose and the mysterious Thomas Cresswell was just as inconsistent as Audrey Rose herself. One scene, they were all but professing their love and next, they were exchanging insults and holding grudges and keeping secrets. Their relationship felt incredibly ingenuine and almost unhealthy. They couldn’t be honest with each other. Just because they both have a penchant for gore doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together. As I read, I found myself wishing another romantic interest would show up just so I didn’t have to read about them anymore.
In the middle of the book, Audrey Rose mentioned her Indian heritage that she inherited from her late mother’s side of the family. I enjoyed reading about this detail because it made Audrey Rose seem like a more complete character, but there wasn’t much description of Indian culture outside of this one scene. I wish that this facet of Audrey Rose’s identity had been weaved throughout the story rather than plunked in one scene.
Throughout the book, Maniscalco tries to set the scene of 1880’s London by using flowery diction and complicated syntax, but her efforts had an opposite effect. Rather than seeming antiquated and charming, Audrey Rose’s voice came across as wordy and confusing. She repeated the same sentiment multiple ways before moving onto the next thought rather than elaborating on each thought. For someone as bright as Audrey Rose, I was intrigued by her thought processes and wanted to know more about how she saw the world through her analytical eyes.
One thing I did enjoy about this book was the ending. I thought I had it figured out, my friends. Halfway through, I cast my bets on the Ripper’s identity, but I had it all wrong. Maniscalco’s smoke and mirrors to hide the Ripper’s true identity were impeccably bulletproof; I totally didn’t see that coming.
Overall, Stalking Jack the Ripper was a mildly disappointing read that did not even approach its assumed level of greatness. While I will give points for the surprising climax, this book left plenty to be desired.
Have you read Stalking Jack the Ripper? What did you think?