In the autumn of 1888, seventeen-year-old Audrey would rather spend an afternoon with in the morgue with a corpse then at an afternoon tea. As she studies in secret under her uncle, a medical examiner, she finds herself thrust in the middle of a case that is sending shockwaves through her city; a murderer, calling himself Jack the Ripper, is brutally murdering and mutilating women. Using her wit and intelligence, Audrey must try to stop this madman as he terrorizes the city…or she could be next.
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is a young adult historical thriller. I am a fan of historical fiction- so for me, a historical thriller is even better! I have always been fascinated by crime, in general, especially unsolved crime, so this play on the Jack the Ripper story caught my interest right away. This novel ended up being considerably refreshing for me. Absolutely different from anything I have been reading lately. It was macabre, witty and had a stellar twist at the end.
I took a Victorian Literature class during my undergrad in University and I wasn’t a huge fan. I couldn’t connect to any of the literature; I appreciated it for what it was and moved on. I loved how Maniscalco used tropes of Victorian gothic literature to set the stage and, yet, was still able to write a relatable young adult novel for the modern young reader. That’s a hard thing to do!
The novel opens with our protagonist, seventeen-year-old Audrey, with her hand elbow deep in a cadaver. We find out that she has been secretly studying alongside her uncle, who is a medical examiner. She attends classes in secret (dressed as a man) and is careful to speak only when spoken to so she does not draw attention to herself. She forms a friendship with another student, Thomas, and soon, they are all working together on the Jack the Ripper murders.
I really love the character of Audrey Rose as she fights to break any stereotype and traditional mold of the Victorian female. I think this is incredibly important, especially in a novel marketed for young adult readers. I also enjoyed watching the relationship blossom between Thomas and Audrey; they had considerably witty banter.
Another cool feature of this novel was the inclusion of photos. Maniscalco has a picture from the Victorian era at the beginning of each chapter; photos of leprosy, autopsied hands, and illustrations of human anatomy from Victorian doctors. This was a great touch and really helped to set the tone. The Victorian period was a huge time for medical advancement and Maniscalco makes sure you know it!
This novel did move slowly at times. I found myself feeling a bit of a lag in the middle. But then it picked right back up for the ending, which completely blindsided me! I also wish that this novel had been written for adults; I wanted more from the plot. However, for a young adult title, I did end up enjoying this one.
If you are a young adult reader who likes a bit of morbidity to your reading, then I would highly recommend. If you find yourself on the fence about this one, I would absolutely pick it up! However, if you are looking for something scary or to give you your intense crime fix, I would skip this one.