“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.”
My Thoughts: Stalking Jack the Ripper is more than just another story about Jack the Ripper and a hypothesis on the infamous murderer’s identity. Within the confines of this popular murder mystery, Kerri Maniscalco incorporates themes of social justice and equality that take this mystery to a whole new level. It is impressive stuff for a debut author.
The story revolves around Audrey Rose, a young lady of the Peerage. Her milieu places her within the upper echelons of British high society, with days filled with tea parties and nights filled with balls. However, Audrey Rose eschews polite society for the very scandalous pastime of learning. Not just any learning will do either. Audrey Rose finds herself captivated by the burgeoning science of forensic medicine. Trying to balance the requirements of polite society with her own interests and moral code proves to be a formidable challenge, and therein lies the crux of the novel. Yes, there is a serial killer on the loose that Audrey Rose desperately wants to stop, but she must also determine just how far she is willing to push the regimented rules set in place by her station in life.
What makes this more than just another coming-of-age story is the fact that Audrey Rose does not just lament her own limitations within society. She recognizes the limitations society places on all women. More than once, she comments on the lack of options for widows or single women who find themselves without familial support. The victims of Jack the Ripper are not just prostitutes who were unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. They were women who had no other available means to support themselves for whatever reason. Society may frown upon them, thinking them morally unfit and a pox on good, Christian society, but Audrey Rose never does. These are women to be pitied and helped. Audrey Rose is such a refreshing change from typical heroines of modern-day Victorian novels, who tend to only worry about their own situations and ignore those from the lower classes.
The mystery itself is well-written and well-researched. Ms. Maniscalco’s use of real imagery from that time period infuses the story with gravitas, as it becomes a serious reminder that the murders at least did happen and the wounds inflicted on the victims were as gruesome as stated. She cleverly incorporates the fact with the fiction by placing Audrey Rose right in the middle of the action without ruining either story. Even better, the author uses the afterword to acknowledge any liberties she took with the timeline of the murders, the victims, etc. This allows readers to walk away from the novel with a very clear understanding of what happened and when, even if we still do not understand the who, how, or why of the murders.
Stalking Jack the Ripper is a great story with an entertaining and inspiring heroine. The mystery is sufficiently creepy to outweigh any predictability that may arise, especially as the book itself brings in real images from that time period, including several letters written by Jack the Ripper himself. The chemistry between all of the characters adds a level of interest to the proceedings. Similarly, the glimpses into life for females of all stations in Victorian England is enlightening. Ms. Maniscalco’s debut novel may be simple in premise but there is much within it that could elicit discussion among friends, book club members, children and parents, etc. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Maniscalco has in store for readers in the future!