Maniscalo’s debut novel Stalking Jack the Ripper is deliciously macabre and a must-read for fans of murder mysteries and historical fiction. While I found the twists to be predictable, this was an enjoyable read and I’m excited to continue the series!
About Stalking Jack the Ripper
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson | Release Date: September 20, 2016 | Pages: 337
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery | Format: eBook & Audiobook | Source: Library
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.
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My Review for Stalking Jack the Ripper
Maniscalo’s debut novel is deliciously macabre and a must-read for fans of murder mysteries and historical fiction. While I found the twists to be predictable, this was an enjoyable read and I’m excited to continue the series!
“Death was not prejudiced by mortal things such as station or gender. It came for kings and queens and prostitutes alike, often leaving the living with regrets.”
I normally put my content warnings at the bottom of my reviews, but I feel like it is important to note up front that the book opens with a black and white photo of a corpse (there is also a photo of someone that died from leprosy further in the book) and the main character conducting an autopsy. This is a dark and gritty tale that isn’t for the faint of heart and I would hate for someone to pick this up expecting a fun historical fiction story (which it is!) and being turned off by the gore. The bottom of the official book synopsis mentions historical photos but in case this wasn’t what you were thinking…
Stalking Jack the Ripper is told in the first person perspective of Audrey Rose Wadsworth, the seventeen year old daughter of an overprotective lord and niece to a renowned coroner in the 1880s who finds herself investigating the famous Jack the Ripper.
“I dreamed of a day when girls could wear lace and makeup—or no makeup at all and don burlap sacks if they desired—to their chosen profession without it being deemed inappropriate.”
I love historical fiction, particularly when the main female character rebukes and challenges society’s expectations. Audrey Rose not only lives in a very sexist society but also is from the upper class which holds its own set of challenges and expectations. The book opens up with her conducting an autopsy under her Uncle Wadsworth’s tutelage and the reader quickly learns that she is taking these lessons in spite of her father’s wishes. Her uncle allows her to join in his lesson the following day provided that she dresses like a boy and keeps quiet, which she gleefully does to be able to learn. Her subterfuge plays a theme throughout the book as she almost lives a double life, even having to change her clothing when leaving the house to not arose her family’s suspicion. Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear slippers and riding pants.
“Just because I studied cadavers didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate beautiful garments.”
As much as I adore Audrey Rose for her fascination with the dead, I love that she loves “feminine” things like frilly dresses; people are more complicated than just black and white rigid stereotypes and she is a well-rounded character that shows that these two things are not mutually exclusive of each other.
“I refused, absolutely refused to let this cruel treatment of a woman stand. I’d do everything in my power to solve this case for Miss Nichols. And for any other voiceless girl or woman society ignored.”
The juxtaposition of the Ripper’s victims and the privilege that Audrey Rose experiences is not lost on me. Despite being raised in “polite society” and being surrounded by men that view her incapable of having apprenticeships (let alone be in the presence of blood without fainting), she never loses sight of her privilege and wanting to find justice for these victims.
“Thomas cleared his throat. ‘But I believe if your niece can handle dissecting a human, she can handle intelligent conversation without fainting. Her intellect, though nowhere near as vast as mine, may prove useful.'”
Thomas Cresswell is absolutely brilliant and I adore characters with the Sherlockian powers of deduction. He is arrogant but it comes from a confidence and he also is willing to share his knowledge with Audrey Rose to not only help her enhance her skills but also to have her as his crime-solving partner. I will always stan a love interest that builds up the object of their affection rather than keep them down. And as much as he wants to protect her, he doesn’t shield or hide her away. Thomas’ adoration and support of Audrey Rose honestly just melted my damn heart.
“Perhaps I don’t want any friends,” he said, moving toward the front door. “Perhaps I am content with speaking the way I do and care only what your opinion of me.”
In case you can’t already guess, let me tell you that I am here for this romance! I am a sucker for romances of this period that kind of exist outside the rules of polite society without throwing those rules out the window. There is something scintillating about the stolen glances and jests that really builds a natural chemistry between these characters that I found satisfying.
“The dead speak to those who listen.”
Fast-paced and gripping, I devoured this book easily over the course of three days (which would have been faster had I not been trying to pace myself for the sake of the group read). I enjoy Maniscalo’s writing and narrative style immensely, appreciating how descriptive the language is without getting needlessly lost in the details.
My one complaint is that I found the mystery to be entirely predictable which did lessen my enjoyment of the book a tad. I guessed fairly early on and while I don’t normally hold that against a book (because this happens more often than not), towards the end of the book it bothered me a lot that Audrey Rose was doggedly pursuing a suspect against all the other clues laid before her. For me it felt like when you scream “behind you” at the screen when a person is about to be murdered in a horror movie. I look forward to seeing how the future books in the series are plotted and hope that the twists/red herrings are executed a bit better.
Jack the Ripper is probably one of the most famous unsolved murder cases in history, and I love the story that Maniscalo crafted in answering what if?. She uses historical record to frame her narrative but also places her main character in the middle of the investigation in more ways than one. While these fictional characters are not likely the real culprits, I really appreciate the way that she explored the what if?… especially answering the question of why Jack the Ripper stopped killing. The deeper that Wadsworth and Cresswell dig, the more personal the stakes become in their search of justice for the murder victims.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Stalking Jack the Ripper and am glad I finally got around to reading it! Even though I was left a little lacking on the twist execution, I love the characters so much that it didn’t hamper my reading experience too much. I definitely am looking forward to reading the other books in the series, and recommend this to fans of gritty murder mysteries!
Audiobook notes: I absolutely loved the audiobook, Nicola Barber did an amazing job! She nails the sarcasm so well and I found myself laughing out loud on countless occasions. This is actually the first audiobook that wasn’t fullcast that I was able to get into, which I think says a lot! You can listen to a three minute preview on Audiofile Magazine.
REPRESENTATION: biracial rep (Audrey Rose is half Indian, half English)
CONTENT WARNINGS: death, drug abuse, gore, murder, sexism