by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Untitled Trilogy #1
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
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.
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is the first in an unnamed trilogy. I had the pleasure of meeting the author at BEA and obtaining a signed ARC. Stalking Jack the Ripper was an engaging, dark, twisted and clever historical mystery that takes place in Whitechapel in the late 19th century as a young woman, along with her Uncle and his apprentice work to catch Jack the Ripper.
“At times the darkness in his eyes terrified me more than the dead we butchered.”
Serial killers fascinate me, and Jack the Ripper is one of my favorites to explore. With so many theories and unanswered questions, this gruesome historical event lends itself well to fictional mysteries.
Stalking Jack the Ripper is marketed as a young adult historical mystery but I would emphases this is for the older end of readers in this age group. Mystery lovers over seventeen would enjoy this well-developed tale.
Superintendent Blackburn shook his head, his fair hair catching the light of the sun. “I’d inquire about the weather, but I’m sure you’d like to speak of other things, Miss Wadsworth.” He squinted toward the body, shielding his eyes with his hand. “Seems our boy gave us two more victims.”
While the author took some liberties with the Ripper historical timeline and added some of her own, she stayed true enough to the crimes gave authenticity to her fiction. As a reader, I quickly found myself immersed in the macabre atmosphere of this tale. I enjoyed the subtle humor and romance served as a side dish to the murder mysteries.
Despite my annoyance at the author’s continual reminder that Audrey was brilliant, our young protagonist, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, was indeed clever and brilliant. A young Watson in the making. Audrey’s Uncle is a professor and mortician who studies cadavers and at times aids law investigations. Audrey prefers sawdust at her feet and a scalpel in her hand to society’s norm of tea and chatter about perspective husbands. I found Audrey to be likeable, and admired her stubbornness and refusal to conform to society’s expectation of her.
“Not to mention, the subject matter was hardly appropriate for the dinner table. Discussing missing ovaries then asking him to pass the salt would be revolting for anyone, let alone a girl of my station”
Maniscalco brought nineteenth century London to life in vivid detail. We got a sense of not only the panic that the “Whitechapel Murderer,” dubbed the “Leather Apron” by the press but also received a glimpse into scientific advancements in the world of forensics. She brought opium dens to life, took us into the walls of Bedlam, and fed us deliciously gory accounts of the brutal murders. We even explore experiments made famous in Frankenstein. Laced throughout the book are period images that enhanced the tone of the story.
Without hesitation, I dragged the scalpel from one shoulder to the sternum, taking pains to push as deeply as I could. My brows raised a fraction before I schooled my face into an unreadable mask. Human flesh flayed easier than I’d anticipated. It wasn’t much different from cutting into a pork loin prior to its roasting, a thought that should have been more disturbing than it was.
Thomas, the young apprentice to Audrey’s Uncle reminded me of a young Sherlock Holmes. I admired his appreciation for Audrey’s skills at deduction and brazen drive to discover the identity of the Ripper. A truly modern thinking young man he encouraged Audrey and saw nothing wrong with her desires to explore forensics. The interaction between these two was delightful, laced in snark, and at times maddening. Whenever these two engaged it was a test of wits as they tangoed. It was quite fun to watch.
There was a subtle hint of romance that didn’t distract from the case, but offered a splendid diversion to the darker more gruesome aspects of the tale.I am looking forward to seeing how this relationship plays a role in the next book.
The mystery was engaging and well-developed allowing the reader to become invested in both the mystery and the characters. The author cleverly wove her story around historical facts lending an authentic feel to the case. While I had a hunch about who the killer was early into the story that proved to be correct, I delighted in working alongside our heroine and hero.
“The dead speak to those who listen. Be quieter than even them.”
Stalking the Jack the Ripper delivered a dark and twisted mystery while delivering characters we cannot help but admire from their brilliant minds to their quip thoughts. I will be curious to see what the next book in this trilogy brings.Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco was an engaging, dark, twisted mystery. Click To Tweet