February 6, 2012
Book review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
Coming in April to WPPL!
Running the streets of London chasing a pickpocketer is never the proper thing for a young woman living in Victorian London to do. That is precisely, however, what seventeen-year-old Abbie Sharp does. The thief, after all, took something that once belonged to Abbie's recently deceased mother. The chase also sets into motion Abbie's descent into Whitechapel, a seedier district of London that is forever linked to the grisly deeds of one Jack the Ripper. At the behest of her guardian grandmother, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, whose patients are destitute and downtrodden women and children. Some of these women are also prostitutes, a target of choice for the Ripper. Who is the mysterious Ripper? His grisly but precise butcherings of women lead the police to think that the murderer is also a medical professional. Is Jack the Ripper one of the doctors with whom Abbie works side by side at the hospital? Is her own life in danger? And how is it possible that Abbie all of a sudden has terrifying visions of the slayings before they've even occurred?
Amy Carol Reeves's debut novel is engaging and, at times, terrifying. There were certain points during Abbie's encounter with the Ripper either in visions or even in the flesh (!) where the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Reeves's vision of who Jack the Ripper really was and why he goes on such a sudden and brutal rampage is quite creative and rather fascinating. It also sparked an interest in clarifying the true facts of the events. Her PhD in nineteenth century British literature serves her well in points of setting but falls short in characterization and dialogue. Abbie's words, and her gratuitous use of "alright," pull the reader out of nineteenth century London and into contemporary nuances of language. The rather anemic love triangle between Abbie, William and Simon is also too underdeveloped for this reader to really care whether or not she ends up with either of them. Setting aside dialogue issues and the lackluster romance, Ripper really is an interesting tale with enough of an open-ended conclusion to beg a sequel.
One final word of warning regarding the publisher-generated synopsis. I felt it gave away far too much. Had I read their full description before reading the story, I would have felt disappointed by the rather surprising plot twists that were in store for me. Tread more lightly next time, Flux!