This is one of those reviews that I have been meaning to write for so long that I ended up having to reread the book in order to do the review justice. I participated in Stalking Jack the Readalong back in September, and I loved hearing what other people had to say about the series. I didn’t like it very much on first read, but I’m really glad I decided to listen again on audio. It made all the difference for me! On that note, here’s my review, which is the first in the series! The rest of the reviews will be coming in the next few weeks. Hooray!
In Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose Wadsworth is an upper class teenager in London who “isn’t like other girls.” Mmkay, this is why I didn’t love the book the first time that I read it, but I’ll get into that later. Rather than wanting to sit around and embroider and catch a husband, Audrey Rose wanted to study forensic medicine. So she was secretly apprenticing under her uncle, who was a doctor/coroner/whatever else in those days. He also taught a class at a boys school, which he let Audrey Rose attend once in disguise. It’s in this class that she meets Thomas Cresswell, who is also studying forensic medicine and apprenticing under her uncle. They’re studying the autopsy of the first Jack the Ripper murder… and then there’s another. And another. Many people – including Audrey Rose’s uncle – are suspected and arrested during the investigation; it’s utter chaos. So Audrey Rose and Thomas team up to try to find out who Jack the Ripper is themselves. Thomas annoys Audrey Rose, sure, but he’s a good mystery-solving partner. Okay, maybe he doesn’t really annoy her all that much. Maybe they’re into each other. Or something. WHATEVER. Murder solving! That’s the important thing here!
*Note: I rolled my eyes a lot while writing that synopsis.
3 Things I Loved
- Thomas. I found this especially true during the reread – Thomas was pretty charming. He made a lot of inappropriate but extremely funny jokes, most of which were innuendos, which had me snickering while listening to the audio. And it was easy to see from very early on that he truly cared for Audrey Rose, which was fun to read. Even though she was blind as a bat to all of it. Anyway, point being, I really enjoyed Thomas a lot.
- The setting. Maniscalco did a great job of setting up London in 1888. I felt like I could see the streets and feel the fog, and it was a great atmosphere for this type of story.
- The take on history. Something I’ve found I really love are alternate takes on history, and this is a great example of that. The Jack the Ripper were, supposedly, never solved, so liberties can be taken to write a story such as this. It’s fun to imagine that things were different from what history books remember. The whole thing is just fun!
Problematic content includes the complete lack of any sort of diversity, although it’s a little easier to give this type of book a pass. Historically, white people in high society London probably wouldn’t have really interacted with people of color unless they were servants or something of the like. That doesn’t make me like it – putting that out there loud and clear. But it makes it a little easier to give it a pass that I’m not entirely sure it deserves. In any case, there were other problems too. The view on sex workers was obviously problematic, but again, sign of the times. Audrey Rose was actually pretty awesome around those parts, telling the men around her that they’re still PEOPLE even though their lives have taken a different path than theirs. But still, the message was that sex workers’ lives didn’t matter as much as “other” lives, which, ugh. Other than those things, my only problems were with Audrey Rose, which is more of a dislike than an actual problem.
So, in truth – I kind of hate Audrey Rose and the tropy “not like other girls” character she plays in the book. I sort of get it, especially because the story is trying to be that she likes science and wants to work in forensic medicine, but did it have to be SO in my face about it? It felt like every chapter was some “not like other girls” scenario to just drive it home, repeatedly, endlessly. Oh, she hates frilly dresses, so she wears simpler ones. Oh, now she’s wearing pants, good lord! Oh, NOW SHE’S PERFORMING AN AUTOPSY, catch me, I might faint! Not like other girls! It was just… very ugh. And it probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it wasn’t paired with her complete idiocy involving Thomas at every turn. It’s like, “I’m not like other girls, but OH MY GOD, you just TOUCHED ME with your BARE HAND???” Okay, Audrey Rose, if you’re not like other girls, why do you care so much about THOSE rules and not others? It got really old. If I remember correctly, the second book is a little better, and I haven’t read the final two yet, so I guess we’ll see! But in this first one, she’s very annoying, and it was hard to get past.
A reminder of the rating scale:
- Red = DNF, I hated everything
- Orange = Ugh, no thank you
- Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
- Green = This was good!
- Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
- Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!
This is going to be a rough book to rate, honestly. I like the plot and Thomas enough to keep going in the series, but AUDREY ROSE, ugh. Not a worthy protagonist, imo. I think I’m probably going to rate this first one lower because I felt especially icky about the whole Audrey Rose trope, and I really think I remember it getting better. We’ll find out how good my memory is soon enough! Anyway, I’m giving Stalking Jack the Ripper a YELLOW rating. There were problems, but the plot was fun!
My belated Stalking Jack the Readalong reviews will continue in the next couple of weeks!