In 1888, following her mother’s sudden death, 17-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother’s request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there. But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
Ugh, I was a moron with this one and forgot to download the galley before it expired, so I had to search for ages to find it at a library near me. I finally just bought it and I’m happy! I love a good Jack the Ripper tale, and I’ll take him in any form, from John Druitt from Sanctuary to a murdering ghost in Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. I’ve been obsessed since I saw a PBS documentary in middle school. I read this one while also reading The Book of Blood and Shadow, so it was a nice counterpoint to that. In Ripper, women are getting murdered, but the tone doesn’t start off as dark as it does in, say, Shadow and Bone. Anyway, I loved Abbie. She’s exactly my type of back-talking Victorian heroine. I really loved that she figured out her visions on her own. She’s smart and resourceful and witty and snarky, but she seems to fall for the jerky doctor, William. I do not like William, though I do like Simon, and I sensed a love triangle beginning. Luckily, I had the feeling the romance in this one would simmer on the back burner for awhile (and I wasn’t wrong).
The language is a little weird in this one, especially when William mentions his father “cheating on” his wife. I don’t know if Victorians used that phrase, but it was weird to see it coming out of William’s mouth. It’s funny, but the older I get, the less drawn in I am by the romances in historical novels. I don’t know why, but even if I enjoy a romance, I find I’m still pretty open to its change. That’s how it was with William. He intrigued Abbie, he had an unusual artistic upbringing, but I didn’t find him interesting. Simon was better, but we learned even less about him. In fact, I found I was more suspicious of them than anything else, wondering which of them would turn out to be the Ripper. So I’ll admit to being a little annoyed at yet another male introduction, mysterious green-eyed Max.
This book can be a little slow, but that didn’t bother me much. We crawl along with Abbie while she’s at the hospital, the first Ripper murder getting only a few paragraphs. While I enjoyed reading those parts, I found myself wondering where the murders went. And then Abbie befriended Mary Kelly, and I started feeling dread, hoping the murders wouldn’t come. If you know anything about the Ripper murders, you know Mary Kelly is the final victim of the Canonical Five. Fortunately, the love triangle I sensed at the beginning was really nothing of the sort. While Abbie is attracted to William, Simon is attracted to Abbie, so the whole thing is kind of sad. I decided I liked Simon more than William, and so was halfway rooting for him when I actually remembered the romance. Otherwise I was dying for another Ripper victim, despite really liking Mary and knowing her fate.
It was nice to see Abbie interact within a society of men, and this line was lovely, “Unfortunately, [the conversation] had become monopolized by Alistair, a Conservative who viewed the poor as “idle,” and Colin, who believed more government money should be given to the parishes.” (p. 186 of the Kindle edition) This is the point at which my suspicions about Simon changed. Abbie mentions his late-night surgeries, and here I started believing Simon was using the hospital to perform illegal abortions. Which I think is awesome, actually. You go, male Victorian feminists (though of course William rushes to assure Abbie that he only performs them “when necessary,” while Abbie isn’t offended at all by the idea). I felt like this book was less about the Ripper murders and more about Abbie’s ascension into doctorliness. Which is fine.
In the end, I thought this one was just okay. It’s a nice story, but I didn’t like the ending or the ultimate ship, and things got kind of out of control with Abbie’s powers. It was all a little too easy in the end, you know? Either way, Ripper was an entertaining read and I’ll probably pick up its sequel, Renegade, when it’s available next year.