Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper

Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Review by Tom Gadd

Kerri Maniscalco’s debut book, Stalking Jack the Ripper, offers a different perspective to the usual representation of the Whitechapel murders. For readers who may not find the prospect of a Jack the Ripper story all that enticing, this book may provide a gateway to the genre. But for those who hope for a more traditional retelling of the infamous Jack the Ripper case, this book may disappoint…

The story often feels as though it is simply set during Jack’s murderous spree, rather than specifically about Jack the Ripper. The usual themes of East-end London’s poverty, Victorian morbidity and the police investigation cannot be found, or at the very least are left to inhabit the background.

Instead of presenting the expected protagonist of a grizzled detective trying to solve the crimes, Maniscalco places a young upper class Victorian woman as the prime character, going by the name of Audrey Rose. Audrey bucks societal convention of the Victorian period, taking an interest in her uncle’s practice of forensic medicine. This choice ultimately frames the story more like an upper class family drama than a horror-crime thriller.

Once Jack the Ripper begins butchering prostitutes in Whitechapel, naturally Audrey Rose finds herself committing to her own private investigation of the crimes along with a mysterious, arrogant, intelligent and handsome young man named Thomas Cresswell. Much of the story is devoted to a somewhat clichéd love-hate romance between Audrey and Thomas. The story continues along with Audrey’s investigation throwing up many different suspects including Thomas and, worryingly, members of her own family.

Modern woman

The story focuses entirely on Audrey’s viewpoint and, as such, the writing style is heavily character-focused. Emotions and interactions reign supreme in Stalking Jack the Ripper. As a result Audrey is very relatable to the reader and offers easy immersion. Despite this, Audrey feels a tad too modern for a Victorian woman, particularly with her contemporary feminist views. This is occasionally too on the nose and generates some disbelief.

Furthermore, little attention is given to the description of the locations used in much of the book, which is often disappointing. Stalking Jack the Ripper could often do more to set the scene of the atmospheric horror in Victorian London we know and love.

Maniscalco also interestingly uses many other elements of 18th/19th century horror and fiction. This includes Frankenstein’s monster, Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning, a trip to Bedlam Asylum and body snatching. This works surprisingly well creating a Victorian pastiche that gives the book a unique feel.

Unfortunately Stalking Jack the Ripper stumbles during its final chapters. The dark attraction to Jack the Ripper is the fact his identity remains a mystery to this day. The ending unfortunately robs Jack of this quality by revealing his fictional identity. Worse yet he turns out to be a moustache twirling caricature of a villain, rather than a mysterious and gritty serial killer.

Regardless of the ending, Maniscalco’s first book is a readable one. Especially for those who look for something reminiscent of a period drama or romance mixed with Victorian horror. Audrey Rose as a character is very easy to empathise with and her strong personality helps hook the reader through every page. Regrettably this is marred to some extent by a couple of clichés including Jack the Ripper being “the person you least suspect”. But the “whodunit” storyline is entertaining and gripping enough to make Stalking Jack the Ripper an enjoyable read.

Review by Tom Gadd

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