I’d seen this book on any and all social media outlets for the past few years now and always wondered if it was something I should read myself. I knew there was hype surrounding it, and typically what happens when I read a relatively hyped up book I end up being let down or underwhelmed so you can probably understand my fears going into Stalking Jack the Ripper. Thankfully, I didn’t end up feeling like this wasn’t worth the hype and actually enjoyed it the way I more or less expected to. The things I liked definitely outweighed the small things I didn’t and as a whole it’s a story I enjoyed which is all I can really want for. Do I think there’s a little bit too much hype? Maybe. But is this a story worth checking out? Absolutely.
Without a doubt, the shining star of this book is Audrey Rose Wadsworth. Her character was something that felt so carefully crafted and executed with the utmost perfection that I would find it baffling if someone didn’t like her. With the story being set in the late 19th century in Victorian England, it’s a time in history where women are merely expected to be the perfect lady, spending their time with teas and gossip and dresses, meant to be seen but not heard. But Audrey Rose wanted to be more than that; she wanted to be a woman of science and intellect. What I found most interesting about the way Kerri Maniscalco wrote Audrey Rose was that she made her a strong feminist icon without having to take a lazy route of doing so. Yes, Audrey Rose wanted to study science with her uncle, be just as smart as a man would be and get her hands dirty in an unladylike way, but she also found interest in “girly” things like dresses and makeup and perhaps dreaming of the day she’d have a family. It’s like Maniscalco emphasized the duality of women through Audrey Rose’s character, showing how a woman can be interested in science as well as dresses and parties. She never set out to write a character that prided herself on “not being like the other girls” but showed how she can be like the other girls but also wants to do more with her life and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And when it came to studying the victims of Jack the Ripper, all being women, Audrey Rose made it her mission to stop him for all of those women and those who he could potentially hurt in the future, ensuring the reader knows that it doesn’t matter what status or background you have but no woman deserves to be murdered by a man like him. I truly loved everything about Audrey Rose’s character and found her to be such a progressive yet appropriate female character for 1888. Her mind and character was such a powerful thing and the driving force of this story and I simply cannot get enough of her. Audrey Rose Wadsworth is the type of character you point at and go “I want to be like her when I grow up.”
Although this was written in first person, which I can’t really decide if it was the right choice or not, it didn’t feel as inappropriate as a first person narrative has felt in other books I’ve read. I think it worked because it was more mystery than fantasy, leaning closer to a contemporary style narrative, and it was more important to see Audrey Rose’s mind work than it would’ve been to have an objective narrator, so that’s why I’m not too mad about it. But I found myself truly enjoying Maniscalco’s writing style as a whole and found that she wrote a truly atmospheric story that channelled a strong gothic horror vibe. The descriptions throughout the book were perfectly done and you almost felt like you were transported to the Victorian era. It reminded me so much of all the stories we studied in my Gothic Horror class in university, which might be the highest compliment someone can give. I think that Maniscalco crafted a very strong story that had a solid balance of mystery, thriller, and horror, and even a dash of historical fiction. It’s the kind of writing that isn’t a chore to get through, and due to Audrey Rose’s beautiful mind, you can’t help but wanting to read more.
I think when it comes to Jack the Ripper himself, and how the title alludes to stalking him, I was a bit unsure of how it was all supposed to fit with what I’d read until maybe the halfway mark and a lot of time I felt like I was waiting for the story to make sense. I personally know nothing about Jack the Ripper, other than that he was a serial killer, and maybe that hurt more than helped me with this book but I really just wanted his name and presence to be known and make sense so the story could just take off. That might be why I felt it dragged for a bit in the beginning, but once his presence was truly made apparent I couldn’t put the book down. Additionally, as for his identity, I think it’s something that can be figured out easily but also not. I personally called it from the beginning, mostly because I’m untrusting and wary of anyone, but once you discover the identity and motivations behind his actions, it’s a truly impressive twist; more for the why than the who, I’d say. I do think it should’ve had a bit more presence in the beginning but since that’s my strongest complaint for this book, it’s not that big of a deal.
I know that romance isn’t the selling point for this book, nor is it truly a central plot point, but you can’t deny the explosive chemistry between Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. That might be where all the hype for this book comes from and I can’t say that people are wrong about them. He’s so stupidly charming that, like Audrey Rose, your immediate reaction is that you want to punch him. I liked how Audrey Rose could never really tell if he was being serious with his words or shamelessly flirting with her, but continued to analyze her feelings for him regardless. I think they had such a strong dynamic with great banter, being different enough to balance each other yet have similarities to bond over. But above all, Thomas is the type of person who lifts Audrey Rose up and encourages her to study science and expand her mind rather than hold her back, like her father, and that makes him such a good person for her to be with. These two together are so fun to read about and are partners in every sense of the word and I can’t wait to see where else Maniscalco intends to take them.
I wouldn’t call this the perfect book but it has so many solid attributes that you can’t say it’s not a book worth reading. The mystery might have taken a bit longer than expected to take off, but it’s an addictive type of story that you just want to dissect and figure out with Audrey Rose. With strong characters and amazing attention to detail from Maniscalco (if you haven’t read her Author’s Note I strongly urge you to), this is the type of book that is a solid beginning to what could be an epic series.
Also thank you, Miss Maniscalco, for not using the lame YA cliche plot twist of Thomas being untrustworthy and the surprise villain in the end. My heart truly thanks you for that.
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 #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
An instant #1 New York Times Bestseller in its very first week! Presented by James Patterson’s children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…