When Rory's parents accept a year-long job in Bristol, England, she leaves her small town near New Orleans for London and Wexford boarding school. Situated in the heart of Whitechapel, the part of town Jack the Ripper frequented in 1888, Wexford becomes the center of a media storm when it's clear a Ripper copycat is recreating the Victorian killings. When Rory actually sees him on the night of one of the murders, she becomes the focal point of the new Ripper's obsession and attracts the attention of
I have a fondness for ghost stories and I am a sucker for novels with Jack the Ripper subplots, so I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it from Memory at Stella Matutina. It's really pretty good, although the cover is a little misleading in some ways--for one thing, this book is not romantic. Three make-out sessions does not a romance make, let's just get that straight. It's really more of a YA version of an urban fantasy novel than anything else (also: Team Stephen!). As for the ghostly image of Jack the Ripper, it would have been more accurate to have it be John Druitt from Sanctuary (side note: I can't BELIEVE there were no Torchwood references in this entire novel, although there was at least a Doctor Who shout-out).
However! One thing the back cover blurbs are completely right about is how atmospheric and creepy this novel is. You really do feel like you're in London, and that ghosts might show up at any moment and try to murder you in your sleep--and these are the type of ghosts who do actually murder people. Johnson's descriptions of the cultural adjustments an American has to make living in London are spot-on; and without boring you with it, she perfectly describes the practical details of not only living in the city but going to a boarding school.
I also really liked Rory and how quirky and weird she seemed into comparison to her English classmates. However, she was a little too grown-up and self-sufficient to be a believable seventeen-year-old, in my opinion. Also, the whole cell phone thing was REALLY lame, and there was a ton of exposition at the end that made the last fifty pages feel like they were going on and on and on. I didn't get her relationship with Jerome at all, and all the other 'normal' characters were marginalized after the Ghostbusters showed up, which was disappointing.
Even with those drawbacks, though, this is a very well-written, well-researched book. It's full of action, is fast-paced, and has a great escapist, spooky feel to it. There isn't a lot of emotional self-reflection going on here, but there's enough character development to keep you engaged. Perfect for curling up with on a winter's night, and definitely appealing to a very wide range of people.
Musical Notes: It's unimaginative, but I couldn't get "Psycho Killer" by The Talking Heads out of my head while reading this.