If you have spent any time looking at my reading history and book reviews, you know that I’m a big YA reader, and I also have a huge interest in reading thrillers and true crime (yeah it’s odd but whatever). So, of course, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” sounds like it should tick every single one of my boxes. Just ignore the fact that I was so late to start reading this. We have Audrey Rose, a young woman of wealth and society that leads a double life assisting her uncle in his morgue. She assists in autopsying the recent corpses that come to his lab, until a slew of horrific murders begins in the Whitechapel area, and the first victim of Jack the Ripper makes it to her uncle’s laboratory, with a startling connection to Audrey Rose’s family. It’s a race to discover who Jack is and put an end to these awful murders; and how could Audrey not win that race when the brilliant, Sherlock Holmes-like love interest is there to help? So, tell me then: why did I not like this book?
Just kidding, I’ll tell you.
Honestly, it may just boil down to my own personal preferences, but reading enjoyment is all about personal preferences as is, so here we are. I don’t mind when liberties are taken with historical fiction, you have to, that’s what makes it fiction. But I do take fault with trying to rewrite history. Despite the resources the author provides at the end and the list of places she changed the history of Jack the Ripper to fit her tale, I felt like too many liberties were taken with the “Jack” character itself, which, ultimately, led to my displeasure with this book being a thriller or mystery. I was disappointed that the author relied so little on the psychology of serial killers, especially when books like “The Cases that Haunt Us” by FBI profilers that look EXTENSIVELY at Jack and how Scotland Yard could have narrowed down who Jack really was given the evidence of the time, have existed for over 20 years. So when the ‘reveal’ happened, it felt like the author just closed her eyes and picked someone within the last few chapters without Audrey Rose doing anything in terms of actually deducing who the real killer was.
Then there was the love interest himself. I don’t understand the appeal of Thomas Cresswell, I really don’t. To me, his “flirtations” were nothing but snarky condescension where the lead character, who is supposed to be this strong feminist, never once calls him out on how often he says her intellect will just never compare to his. His deductions were very much like Sherlock Holmes where he could just look at a scene or a person and know exactly what they were thinking or what had happened, but with none of the actual evidence to support what he saw. Which made him a little too conveniently omniscient for my tastes, and kept him from actually forming much of a personality. Unfortunately, I didn’t find Audrey much better herself. I wasn’t a fan of how often she tells the reader how she “wasn’t that kind of girl” and using that as a device to assure us time and time again that she was strong and unique. I may be late to this book, but even I know that, when this came out, authors knew it was time to retire the problematic “not like other girls” trope in building up a female lead.
Those issues aside, if I ignore my personal tastes and expectations when it comes to books and historical fiction like this, I just didn’t find the writing all that gripping, either. I understand that this is the author’s debut work, so her more recent works are probably leagues better, but when it comes to THIS particular series, where I know I’ll be forced to want these leads to be in love and where I have to deal with more of the first-person perspective of Audrey when it comes to hunting down historical serial killers… This is where I tap out. I’m mainly only giving it 2 stars because I do appreciate what the author was trying to do, even if she didn’t succeed for me. I do like that her female lead is so interested in science and medical advances in a time where such pursuits were barred to women. I appreciate that she wanted to bring these historical killers into a YA setting to birth an interest in true crime in young minds. But, ultimately, this book just did not do it for me, such a pity.
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