Stalking Jack the Ripper

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Stalking Jack the Ripper Book Poster Image
Teen dissects corpses to find killer in Victorian creepfest.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in 1888 London during Jack the Ripper's killing spree, the story doesn't spare the (gory) details. Author Maniscalco freely admits, in the afterword, to taking a few liberties with historical accuracy to advance the story (sometimes to the point that you half expect heroine Audrey Rose, who uses modern words such as "morph," to pull an iPhone from her reticule at a crucial moment). But the story conveys a vivid sense of the Victorian era's suffocating propriety, frequent hypocrisy, social inequity, and especially its mistreatment of women. Since much of the story involves vividly described dissections of corpses (in various states of decay) and analysis of organs, budding forensic pathologists will pick up some scientific knowledge. There's also a shout-out to Frankenstein (1818), which strongly influences a character. Some history buffs will be intrigued by Victorian burial customs, which here involve a train station just to take bodies to cemeteries outside the city.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about being true to yourself and finding your own path in life, regardless of the limitations others put on you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Spirited, independent Audrey Rose spends a lot of time and energy defying conventions that require her to be ornamental rather than smart. Her compulsion to find the truth about the murders leads her into dicey situations from break-ins to skulking around alleys and sleazy taverns, but she's driven by noble motives and is increasingly conflicted as the suspense builds and suspicion falls on one after another of her loved ones. She also expresses much compassion for the murder victims and the problems of Victorian women who aren't as lucky as she is, with her wealth, education, and relative freedom.

Violence

Forensic pathology and dissecting corpses are essential to the story, and so are the still-unsolved hack-and-slash murders of Jack the Ripper. The victims are described in detail, including murder-scene staging with internal organs. There's an unrelenting barrage of dead bodies in various states of decomposition, along with preserved body parts, blood, and graphic drawings (including one of female reproductive organs removed from one of the victims). Along the way, we also get street fighting, wrestling, kidnapping, imprisonment, and people drugged against their will. Male characters have a tendency to grab Audrey Rose, but she tends to hold her own.

Sex

The Ripper's victims are prostitutes, and there's much discussion of the forces of the era that drove women to that life. Audrey Rose is impatient with men who find it improper to mention the subject. Teen characters with a budding romance share a few brief kisses, along with a lot of sometimes-risqué banter, and Audrey Rose spends a lot of time swooning over the attractions of a fellow student she's not sure she should trust.

Language

Occasional "hell."

Consumerism

As the debut from James Patterson's new YA imprint jimmy patterson, leaves the door open for sequels -- which are already in the works.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character is addicted to laudanum, causing him to behave strangely. Another is imprisoned and drugged to keep him insane. Adult characters, including some of the murder victims, drink to excess. Teen and adult characters smoke tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as the title suggests, gore, corpses, and suspense abound in Stalking Jack the Ripper, a series debut that also launches James Patterson's jimmy patterson imprint. Victorian Bones-in-the-making Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, defies her aristocratic father, religion, and the era's prejudices to dissect and study human corpses under her scientist uncle's guidance. There's some discussion of prostitution and opium addiction; a Frankenstein-like effort to revive the dead is part of the plot. Expect much graphic description of the sights, sounds, textures, and smells of dead bodies and organs. This romp through the foul, dark, and creepy -- with romance on the side -- features lots of positive messages about social justice, using your brain, solving problems, courage, and being true to yourself. Meanwhile, the corpses pile up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byIshama M. September 29, 2016

Jack the Ripper Romanticized

Well I liked the book premise we did get a fair share of mystery, crime solving, uncovering murders and how all this affects a 19th century female interested in... Continue reading
Adult Written bySamantha P. April 24, 2017

Made it sound worse

There is nothing described graphically, from either a scientific standpoint, or from a love-interest standpoint. The romance is a sub-plot... Not the main plot... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bys123456 April 2, 2018

Amazing!

If your child likes mysteries and murder this book is for them.
Teen, 17 years old Written bythePrettyDead February 6, 2018

What's the story?

As STALKING JACK THE RIPPER begins, it's 1888, and a grisly murderer terrorizes London. For aristocratic 17-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth, there's plenty of death and gore closer to home -- since her beloved mother's passing five years earlier, she seeks to reveal death's secrets, specifically by sneaking off to the lab of her scientist uncle to dissect corpses and study their organs. Also, there's his infuriatingly attractive, arrogant, and very much alive assistant. None of these are remotely suitable interests for a wealthy lord's proper daughter. But determined Audrey Rose persists and soon finds herself stalking Jack the Ripper -- while trying to avoid becoming his next victim in the process. As the remains of the killer's victims arrive in the laboratory for dissection, she's determined to use science to bring him to justice. When suspicion falls on one after another of her loved ones, she's conflicted.

Is it any good?

Fans of creepy scenes and Victorian London's dark underbelly will love this gory page-turner and its theory about a famously unsolved murder spree -- but it's not for the squeamish. The first page, which graphically describes each step as the narrator slices into a corpse, is a preview of much to come, and not everyone shares the heroine's fascination with body parts. But along with the relentless gore and gross-outs, there's a suspenseful plot, lots of (sometimes accurate) period detail, and a spirited heroine with lots of appeal as she dodges Victorian propriety to pursue her true calling. Stalking Jack the Ripper is the first book in a planned series by first-time author Kerri Maniscalco.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the titular character of Stalking Jack the Ripper. Had you heard about Jack the Ripper and his crimes before? Why do you think the murders remain unsolved to this day?

  • Why do you think the subject of trying to revive dead people is such a popular theme? What other examples do you know? Do things ever turn out well?

  • What other examples can you think of wherein people are kept from their chosen careers or from fun because of their society's gender stereotypes? Did those people think of ways around the problem or just give up?

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