What is your first thought when you see a book cover like this?
Now, what is your first thought when you see a write-up like this on the back cover?
If you summed it up as a twisted romance full of crime and suspense, you would only be partially right.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is unlike any other girl in 19th Century London. While she remains a part of the upper-class society, she holds a secret that very few know. Audrey has an unquenchable desire to work with a new form of science: forensics. While much of her family disapproves of her hobby, she finds ways to study and hone her skills alongside her uncle. When a mysterious string of horrific murders begin taking place on the streets of London, Audrey must put everything, including her reputation, on the line to find the killer before he finds his next victim.
In one word: beautiful. While this may not be the word you would originally anticipate, it is one that proficiently sums up the craftsmanship of the storyline.
I will be transparent with you. When I read the first few pages of SJTR, I nearly put it down fully intending to never pick it up again. Maniscalco doesn’t waste any time with frivolous or unnecessary words. The opening scene is a little gruesome and may shock you if you’re not expecting it. I am not a squeamish person, but it did make me a little uncertain. I wasn’t totally convinced that I wanted to read approximately 300 pages of Audrey performing postmortem examinations. I decided to press on in the hopes that the author would allow me to move past this scene, and thankfully, she did.
I would encourage you to keep reading even if you’re thinking about putting the book down. It gets better. And I mean really, really better. You will not be disappointed.
Those who deserve respect are given it freely. If one must demand such a thing, he’ll never truly command it.
(Stalking Jack the Ripper, p. 224)
The plot is a beautiful medley of 19th Century mannerisms and apparel with the darkness of suspense and murder. Not only is the plot wonderful because of the twists and turns it takes you on, but also the sheer magnitude of the climax. I am rather proud to say that for much of the book, I knew who the killer was. I analyzed the minor details as Maniscalco gave them and quickly deciphered the killer’s identity. But I have also read a good number of books in this genre and I have grown accustomed to authors’ tricks. If you’re looking for a solid storyline, look no further than Stalking Jack the Ripper.
Very rarely do I fall in love with characters quite like I fell in love with this one. Audrey Rose will steal your heart and wrap up your emotions in her story until you find yourself fully engaged. I could tell you about how she is a strong female protagonist who finds the courage to stand up against society’s expectations in order to do what is right and to pursue her goal of catching the murderer. I could also tell you how she is an advocate for women’s rights, wishing that both highborn and lower-class women could break the era’s chains that have been placed on them; to be free to make their own choices and to live their lives how they see fit. Yes, I could tell you many things about her strong, steadfast character that is so clearly written on the pages. However, I think for now I’ll just skip over that because there was something that stood out to me more than her stubbornness and strong will.
I peered up at Thomas, a subtle warmth spreading through my limbs. “Be careful, Mr. Cresswell. Someone might think you’re beginning to care for me.”
He glanced in my direction, drawing his brows together as if I’d said something particularly strange. “Then I should like to meet that person. They’d be quite astute.”
(Stalking Jack the Ripper, p. 109)
It was the way she enjoyed the finer things of life. Sure Audrey enjoyed science and forensics, but Maniscalco never saw fit to take away the character’s ability to also enjoy wearing a new dress or putting on makeup. In her emotions, readers see how Audrey struggles with pleasing her family and those around her. You see how she fights against her girlish reactions towards Thomas. There was something so human about her that it was refreshing and relatable. So many female protagonists cling to stereotypes or poorly presented ideals of women, either leaning too strongly towards the silly, frivolous teenage girl or the robotic, too-strong-to-need-a-man type of woman.
Audrey Rose was gloriously portrayed and I couldn’t help but love her character through and through.
As has become my custom, I will put up this warning in case you need it, either for yourself or for someone you know. This book has a few…delicate portions in it. Looking back over the pages I read, I realized there wasn’t any language. Considering the era the story is set in, it’s not much of a surprise. The era also eliminated any sensuality from being placed in the book. What it comes down to is the violence. Because this is a murder mystery and the main character is involved with forensic studies, there will be conversations and descriptions of some of the Ripper’s victims. The publisher recommends this book for those who are 15+, but I would not hesitate to raise the age limit to those who are a little older.
If you haven’t read this book, be sure to do so. It’s definitely worth the read. If you have read it, let me know what you thought. Did you enjoy it, or not so much? Let me know in the comments.