Thursday, August 9, 2018

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Usually me + hyped-up YA novel = crushing disappointment. But how could I hate a book that could be summed up as Wednesday Addams and Sherlock Holmes have guarded flirtation over forensic science lab? I mean, that's just ace.

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER begins literally with the heroine arms deep in viscera, and continues in that vein (pun sort of intended). Audrey Rose is the daughter of the wealthy British upperclass and is expected to sit down and have teas and not pal around with her creepy uncle in his lab full of dead people. But dead people have way more appeal to her than dresses or tea - especially when she meets a boy named Thomas who shares her passion for corpses and deductive reasoning.

Said reasoning comes into handy when news of a serial killer stalking the London streets hit the presses. The killer in question is, of course, Jack the Ripper, and he's mutilating the bodies of dead women in such a grotesque fashion that even Audrey Rose, girl with the self-professed constitution of steel, feels like losing her lunch and swooning dead away. As more and more clues come to light, she's faced with the grim realization that the killer might be someone she knows.

Sometimes, deductions lead you down paths better left untrod.

So I did not hate this book like I expected (I do not have a good history with hyped-up YA). I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It reminded me of Barry Lyga's Jasper Dent series. For 3/4 of the book I was sucked in and even found myself being amused by the burgeoning relationship between Thomas and Audrey (even if I personally found the love interest to be pedantic and annoying). I loved that this is a book aimed at girls that doesn't sugarcoat or tiptoe around unpleasant things. I appreciated the research that went into this and the photos (real photos!) inserted into the book.

My problems with the book mostly arose in the last 1/4, which is where the author writes a lazy attempt at a love triangle that goes nowhere, and one hell of a sharp-jumping ending that just about ruined the book for me. What the actual fresh hell was that. WHAT THE FRESH HELL WAS THAT. It was way too weird and about 150 kinds of nope. I am 99.9% sure I must deduct a star for that. (For those of you who are "in the know," I'm not deducting for grotesqueness but because "it" felt ridiculous and unrealistic and lame, just FYI.)

Also yes, the heroine is a Special Specialton who is praised repeatedly by being told that she's as good as a man (i.e. not like other girls) and allowed to do things that would get her tossed into a sanitarium by other folks of the era, including wearing pants, performing dissections, and wandering around with boys sans escort. Yes, it is annoying, but I just tried to ignore it. It's the only way.

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER did what it was supposed to do; it entertained me. But it also had a number of flaws (THAT ENDING). I'm curious to see where the story it goes from here - as long as the author keeps well away from the shark tank.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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