Summary (provided by Goodreads): 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.
Dee’s Review: I stumbled upon this novel in a video by one of my favorite Booktubers, Sasha Alsberg. Jack the Ripper is a subject that has fascinated me for years, ever since I read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. I even got to look at the letters Jack left for the police to find when I was in Europe a few months ago. National Archives is a wonderful resource. Anyway, from what I remember, I enjoyed the writing of Johnson’s novel but was not 100% into where the plot was going—it wasn’t what I was expecting.
I’ll start with the main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth. She’s everything you’d want in a female protagonist—strong-willed, defiant, smart, and my favorite, not anything like how society wants her to be. Audrey spends her time opening up cadavers with her neurotic uncle. She possesses great skill in the science and strives to obtain any knowledge she can on the study, without her father knowing of course. While Audrey doesn’t like to stick to the typical expectations of a woman during this time period, she does a nice job at creating a facade in order to conceal her true motives from the people that would disapprove and interfere with her plans.
What I admire most about her character is that her motives are not driven by the love interest and her potential relationship (He’ll remain nameless because I want this to be as spoiler-free as possible). She’s mesmerized by the science behind the murders and brutal states of the bodies that she and her uncle must analyze. It just so happens, however, that that allows her to cross paths with the love interest of the story. The two work together to try and figure out the crime, and while there are a few romantic scenes, it didn’t take away from the plot nor did it seem out of place.
The writing itself was rather delicate and beautiful, but dark at the same time, which I think parallels to Audrey’s personality quite nicely. The novel did not have as much dialogue as I would have liked, but it was nothing that took away from my desire to keep reading. The novel was very good about incorporating end of chapter cliffhangers, which made it hard for me to put this book down because I was always wanting to know what happened next.
As the story progressed, I was worried that I would know who Jack the Ripper was right away. However, Maniscalco did a great job in keeping me guessing in terms of who the true killer was, and there was a point where I had three different people on my list of potential suspects. Once you know who the killer is, it’s interesting to remember the past comments and descriptions that were pointing to this specific character all along.
The ending was a bit underwhelming, and while I liked the twist on who the killer was, I didn’t like the outcome afterwards. I thought it deserved a more interesting and dark ending than the simple and rather expected outcome of any mystery/crime novel. The novel ended rather quickly, and I had so many remaining questions after finishing it that I knew weren’t ever going to be answered.
If you’ve read this book, leave a comment below and tell me what you thought 🙂 Or, if you’ve read other books based on the Jack the Ripper murders, let me know! I’d love to check them out.
Rating: I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars, only putting me a bit higher than the Goodreads average rating of 3.97.