***Disclaimer: All opinions are my own.***
**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**
“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows. ”
– Kerri Maniscalco, Stalking Jack The Ripper
Stalking Jack The Ripper Review
Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is the first installment in a new historical fiction series centered on a young woman with a fascination in the forensic sciences. Audrey Rose Wadsworth, the daughter of a lord, lives a life of wealth and privilege. However, much to the dismay of her father, she is no ordinary high classed woman. Audrey Rose’s interests do not reside with dresses and gossip; her passion lies with the dead. With guidance from her Uncle, Audrey Rose pursues her passion by learning everything there is to know about forensic medicine. She even practices performing autopsies in her Uncle’s laboratory. However, her knowledge and experience is put to the test when a string of gruesome murders strikes London. With the charming and intuitive Thomas Cresswell by her side, Audrey Rose races to solve these murders and catch the serial killer before he or she strikes again.
The legend of Jack The Ripper is no stranger to the media spotlight. Ever since the infamous serial killer struck in 1888, the mystery of the ripper’s identity has captivated millions. Who could have brutally slain those five prostitutes and evaded the police’s detection so efficiently? Why were some of the women disemboweled? Was the ripper a man or a woman? Unfortunately, the speculation surrounding this case will forever haunt our society. However, with the large number of unanswered questions and the small amount of definitive evidence, the legend of Jack The Ripper makes for a perfect backdrop to an intriguing story.
As a person with a tendency to gravitate towards the dark and foreboding, anything relating to the Jack The Ripper crimes is a must. So when I first learned about Stalking Jack The Ripper, I immediately bought a copy; after all, it literally had Jack The Ripper in the name. However, as I learned more and more about the story, my excitement for the novel grew exponentially. Not only does the novel have a sarcastic yet brilliant love interest, but it also features a young woman fighting against society’s expectations. Therefore, as any sane person with an uncontrollable excitement for a novel would do, I consumed it.
Stalking Jack The Ripper perfectly intertwined fact and fiction. It incorporated the well known facts of the Jack The Ripper crimes while also fitting fictional elements into the notorious gaps of the legend. For instance, the reason why Jack The Ripper disemboweled those women was because those body parts were needed to preserve the body of the Ripper’s dead mother. The body’s conservation was only a stepping stone to the Ripper’s true goal; reanimating his mother (think Frankenstein). Where reality leaves us hanging, Kerri Maniscalco picks us up. Another instance of Maniscalco’s magical mending is her incorporation of authentic photographs. At the start of some chapters, a pictorial reference is displayed. These pictures vary from chapter to chapter but they always help further the story in some aspect. For instance, the first chapter of the novel is accompanied by an image, titled Post-Mortem Methods, of a dead body in the early stages of the autopsy process. This image when paired with the first line, “I placed my thumb and forefinger on the icy flesh, spreading it taut above the breastbone as Uncle showed me”, creates the perfect all around experience.
In addition to the exceptional Jack The Ripper plot, Kerri Maniscalco also introduces us to two remarkable characters, Audrey Rose and Thomas. Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a young woman with determination and courage. She is not afraid of pursuing her passion for the forensic sciences, even if society frowns upon it. One of my favorite examples of her determination is when she dressed up as a man in order to attend one of her uncle’s forensic science lectures. She sat in the back of the classroom and had to remember to speak with a low manly voice, but she was unwavering in her quest to learn. Audrey Rose also does not scare easily. She cuts open dead bodies for science and faces the gruesome effects of a serial killer all without running the other way or passing out (which is what I would do in her situation). Even after the events of the story and her family life in crumbles, Audrey Rose still holds her head up high in resolution to pursue her dreams.
Just as Watson has Sherlock as a partner in crime, Audrey Rose has Thomas. Thomas Cresswell is a young man who also has an interest in the macabre. He is interested in the forensic sciences, but excels in the art of reading people. He can deduce just about anything from anyone with just a look (just like Sherlock). His special talent is a source of annoyance for Audrey Rose since no secret or emotion is safe from him. In fact, one of his first encounters with Audrey Rose is when she is disguised as a man in her uncle’s lecture. With his observational skills, Thomas was able to determine that Audrey Rose was, in fact, not a man. However, being the revolutionary man that he is, Thomas does not rat her out. If anything, he is perplexed and even intrigued by her (and say hello to my new obsession… I mean pairing). This young woman, who is beautiful and brave, is sitting in on a lecture about death. If this isn’t fate, I don’t know what is.
Anyhow, Thomas’s superior insight into humanity influences his superb sense of confidence; confidence that borderlines cockiness at times. However, his confidence and sass isn’t portrayed as annoying; it is portrayed as charming. (Who doesn’t like a charming and handsome young man?) His witty dialogue also suggests a bit of self-loathing and sadness (William Herondale anyone?). This hint of sadness depicts a troubling backstory just waiting to be unveiled and alleviated with the help of a specific brunette. With all of these elements, in addition to his dashing good looks, Thomas Cresswell officially stole my heart (and maybe even Audrey Rose’s heart as well). His presence on the page makes me desperate for him to be an actual person. His personality and blatant declarations of romantic feelings towards Audrey Rose just turn me into a pile of mush. But alas, since he is not real (sobs), I will settle for his partnership (and possible relationship) with Audrey Rose.
Throughout the entire novel, every interaction between Audrey Rose and Thomas had me smiling from ear to ear. I was constantly wondering if now would be the time they confessed their budding feelings for one another. However, as a person who loves slow burn romances (Bellamy and Clarke on The 100 for instance), I didn’t want the romance to be rushed. I want Audrey Rose and Thomas to flirt around the idea of them as a couple. I love the angst and subtle declarations of feelings slow burn romances entail. I want them to build up to their relationship instead of it starting outright. However, I am also a person who loves the reward of waiting. And boy, did we wait for that kiss between Audrey Rose and Thomas. But it was perfect and left me wanting more. As a hopeless romantic, I also love reading about a couple being placed into dangerous situations. It forces each of them to realize what the other one means to them.
Fortunately, we get to see this type of situation when Audrey Rose unintentionally confronts Jack The Ripper. When Thomas realizes that Audrey Rose is in danger, Thomas goes out of his way to reach Audrey Rose before it is too late. Once he reaches her, running in screaming her name, he quickly scans her for any injuries and proceeds to look relieved when he finds none. Conversely, when Audrey Rose is in the hands of Jack The Ripper, her mind wanders to Thomas. When she thinks of him in this ‘life or death’ situation, she realizes that she loves him; that she not only wants to be with him but needs to be with him. These types of scenes are my bread and butter. I could read them all day long. I think it stems from my obsession with Twilight, but I digress.
Overall, Stalking Jack The Ripper was phenomenal. I loved the Jack The Ripper story line, the characters, the atmosphere, everything. I loved being sucked into this setting and witnessing the events of Jack The Ripper unfold. I loved falling in love with Thomas Cresswell and rooting for Audrey Rose Wadsworth in her fight for her dreams. If it is not obvious by this point, I highly recommend this novel. It has something for everyone; romance, suspense, mystery, humor. I cannot wait to get lost in this world again with the next book, Hunting Prince Dracula.
Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco was released on September 20, 2016.
While you are at it, you should also check out Kerri Maniscalco’s website.
My Rating: 5/5