Are you interested in a thrilling and sometimes gruesome young adult novel? Or do you crave an amusing and dark whodunit series investigating a new infamous figure in every book? “Stalking Jack the Ripper” might be just what you’re looking for.
The hit book series by Kerri Maniscalco has readers coming for the mystery and staying for the romance. Made popular because of its irresistible characters, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” is a great addition to any YA mystery lover’s bookshelf.
“Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco
Set in Victorian-era London, the thrilling murder mystery follows a high-society girl who finds herself in the middle of an investigation to uncover the figure behind the infamous serial killer.
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born and raised as a lord’s daughter, but the life of wealth, tea parties and silk dress fittings never suited her interests. Instead, she leads a life of secrecy: Against her father’s wishes, Audrey Rose sneaks off to work in her uncle’s laboratory, studying forensic medicine as one of his coroner apprentices. After discovering a slew of brutal murders in the nearby streets of London, Audrey Rose and her uncle delve into the investigation of what seems to be a serial killer. But what Audrey Rose doesn’t know is that her search for clues may lead her closer to her loved ones in ways she never would’ve expected.
Throughout the first novel and the rest of the “Stalking Jack the Ripper” series, Maniscalco balances unexpected twists and turns in the story while also providing several compelling characters who will leave readers wanting more.
Blend of Historical Fiction and Thriller
Since the series follows Audrey Rose and her journey to becoming a forensic scientist, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” maintains an entertaining yet scientific approach to the infamous story of Jack the Ripper. As Audrey Rose fights to solve the mystery on her own terms, the first book in the series features images, photos and information straight from the forensic files. Such details demonstrate the main character’s commitment to her forensic studies while also keeping the reader engaged with the collected evidence.
The mystery elements in “Stalking Jack the Ripper” and the rest of the series are often morbid yet tame enough to maintain the series’s young adult status. These same elements sometimes push the boundaries of the genre, making the series a not-so-easy read for the faint of heart. However, the tropes of young adult fiction remain present, helping the audience immerse themselves with Audrey Rose’s forensic knowledge in the case at hand.
Additionally, Maniscalco seems to have dedicated much research in her portrayal of the scientific side of the case, in which she implements fascinating facts about anatomy and forensics from the late 1800s. Such dedication and research help to solidify the severity of the actual case, but they also captivate readers’ interest in an exciting way that most young adult mysteries do not. Though the book’s specific details of the Ripper case might not be completely accurate, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” includes just enough thrills and horror to hold the attention of YA murder mystery aficionados.
A Guilty Pleasure Romance Mystery
As the series progresses, the Victorian-era London setting that Maniscalco creates could do with a bit more fleshing out, but the author makes up for it in how she crafts the dynamics between the main characters, Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell.
First and foremost, the heroine becomes increasingly complex throughout the series. Audrey Rose is introduced in “Stalking Jack the Ripper” as a girl who is determined to be unlike other women in her social circle. She is smart and quick-witted, and she knows she cannot survive adulthood if it means she can no longer study forensics. “Audrey Rose, whose fearlessness in the face of the decaying and the dead,” said a review from Publishers Weekly, “will endear her to readers looking for an engaging historical thriller.”
However, Maniscalco sometimes attempts to show her character’s strengths in a slightly narrow fashion, often equating only beauty and strength to feminism. “Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging,” stated a review from Kirkus Reviews. Nevertheless, Audrey Rose grows out of her narrowmindedness as her character develops, and some readers might even find her personal remarks refreshing from the start.
Additionally, there’s another character who is sure to grab the audience’s attention: Thomas Cresswell. An aspiring coroner who is often equally as smart and stubborn as Audrey Rose, Thomas is the other lab assistant for Audrey Rose’s uncle. The two meet around the beginning of her investigation in the Ripper case, and their relationship starts as a hate-to-love romance. Their banter together as lab partners often outshines the novel’s other elements and cuts into the book’s dark and grotesque tone in all the right ways. For readers not entirely convinced by the mystery’s unsteady pacing, the slow romance between the two main characters allows the audience to forgive such a flaw in the writing.
Thomas’ dark humor and strong detective skills will charm new readers and help elevate his character arc over the course of the series. Even without his wit, his on-page chemistry with Audrey Rose is well done from the first novel, and his character background becomes increasingly important as the story progresses.
Many of the main characters throughout the series are flawed but incredibly enjoyable; even the supporting characters such as Audrey Rose’s brother Nathaniel or her cousin Liza are given great personalities. If the mystery doesn’t pull you in right away, the characters surely will.
A Gripping Mystery
Overall, Maniscalco’s debut is a strong and engaging addition to the world of young adult fiction. Other books in the recently concluded series include “Hunting Prince Dracula,” “Escaping from Houdini” and “Capturing the Devil,” all of which are sure to thrill readers as much as the first. Each book is full of great twists and gruesome details, but any YA mystery fan is sure to appreciate the amount of detail and imagery Maniscalco has implemented to the series’s advantage.
Whether you’re looking for a gritty murder mystery or an absorbing romance, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” blends the two categories in a series designed to leave readers always asking for more.
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