Monday, November 7, 2011
The protagonist, Rory, is an American girl who chose to be enrolled in an old English Academy in London while her parents work in Bristol. I was so pleased with the descriptions of London, contrasted to the Victorian image that so many of us have read about before. Being on a Victorian, Gothic rampage lately made all the descriptions pop out even more than usual. Maureen Johnson knows how to illustrate her surroundings!
The descriptions of the Academy were captivating -- I wanted to be there! I loved Rory's life there; her adorable roommate Jazza and her competition with head girl Charlotte, curly-haired prefect and Rory's new crush, Jerome, and Call-me-Claudia, a hockey-obsessed, boisterous woman who always introduces herself in the same way.
However, about halfway through the book, an entirely new cast enters and almost seems to steal the story. A group of unique police officers are the answer to why Rory can see an unusual man creeping around the school grounds the night of one of the Ripper murders. Though I found Johnson's creative plotline exciting, the book did veer away from the Academy life it had built up so well, and took a drastic turn into unravelling old secrets from a disturbed man's past.
The backdrop of Jack the Ripper was both thrilling and a bit daunting. I wanted a bit more historical information. I found myself Googling things to see if there were clues I wasn't picking up. The gruesome murders that frame the narrative helped to throw an entirely new level of suspense into the mix, but the crescendo of it all was not as eerie as I had previously hoped. The Ripper-esque events are a means to an end, but not what the true story is about. That was probably what disappointed me the most.
Although I did enjoy the book (tearing through the first half in a matter of hours), it was not exactly what I had expected.