My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Genre: YA, Gothic Mystery
“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.”
“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”
What a dazzling debut for Ms. Kerri Maniscalco! I had always been intrigued by the unsolved murders committed by the mysterious Jack the Ripper, and so this gothic tale was right up my alley.
There were several elements to this book that can certainly be appreciated, the first being the writing. Maniscalco’s writing is lush with detail and character. The style of writing has a certain strength and flourish that kept me enraptured throughout the entire book, and though the language was not particularly Victorian, it was fairly reminiscent of that period.
The characters were, by far, the heart of this novel, the most captivating being Miss Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell. Audrey Rose is an independent thinker who is strangely attracted to the science of the body. Despite several rejections of her interest in forensic pathology, Audrey Rose remains rooted in her ways as she frequently sneaks away during the night to feed her curiosity under the tutelage of her brilliant Uncle Jonathan.
Audrey Rose may be considered a proto-feminist as she constantly challenges the social norms of her time and provides thoughtful commentary on the roles of women and men within proper English society. I really enjoyed her little introspections, no matter how often they came, and I was fully engaged in her desire to carve her own path in the world of science, while also enjoying her luxurious position as a lady of the upper class. She loved beautiful clothing just as much as she liked cutting up a cadaver, which provided an interesting balance to her character.
As for Thomas, I found him to be an infuriatingly charming character whose quips and naïveté, in terms of social interaction, were fairly bold and blush-inducing, yet wholly endearing and hilarious.
“You look quite lovely today, Audrey Rose.” He stepped forward, staring down at me, and I fought to keep my eyes from fluttering shut. Thomas drew closer until I was convinced my blood would explode from my body like fireworks splattering across the night sky. “Perhaps you should comment on the excellent cut of my suit. I look rather handsome today as well. Don’t you think?”
The romance between Audrey Rose and Thomas was not subtle, but I can say that it was somewhat of a slow-burn. Despite Thomas’ many attempts to woo Audrey with his lovably sarcastic humor and wit, Audrey wasn’t giving in so easily, which I very much appreciated. To be fair, she held out longer than I would have been able to. And luckily, their romance was not a settled thing by the end, though their attraction could not be denied. Her thoughts about Thomas were probably some of the most enjoyable parts of the text.
“Someone screamed; perhaps it was me. Though it would have made me happier if it were Thomas Blasted Cresswell.”
Besides the character and writing, the unravelling of the Ripper mystery was intriguing and I loved how the author included real images during that time period to highlight the story. There were actual images of Jack the Ripper’s notes, cadavers, buildings, and the like. I also loved how unapologetically gruesome the descriptions of the murders and dissections were. It’s a gothic mystery, so I wasn’t disappointed by all the necessary gothic elements!
The only reason I gave this book four stars is because I figured out who the killer was about a third of the way in. I found the author had released far too many clues (several obvious ones) in reference to Jack’s true identity. And the ending was slightly far-fetched, yet predictable at the same time. I wasn’t surprised that a certain character was the killer because his purpose seemed to be in limbo. He seemed to just be there…And the author worked too hard to divert our attentions away from him and unload it onto another suspicious character, but it didn’t really work for me.
Other than that, I found this story to be one hell of a ride. I love dark, gritty stories and I can gladly say I’ve put this book on my favorite gothics list. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone who is intrigued by Victorian London and the unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper.