Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves takes the reader back to London in 1888, giving a new twist to the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper.
Our main character is Arabella Sharp, a headstrong young woman who has been sent to live with her uptight grandmother following the death of her mother. Their relationship is strained, as her grandmother had disowned Abbie’s mother after disapproving of her connections with painters, as well as disliking Abbie’s father. As a result our heroine is feeling suppressed, as her posh grandmother wants her to attend parties and find a husband, which sounds like Abbie’s idea of hell.
She is too much of a free spirit to want to settle down with anyone, so when the opportunity of a volunteer position at Whitechapel Hospital arises she is more than happy to accept it. It is offered by old family friend, Dr. Julian Bartlett, one of the founders of the hospital whose aim was to provide treatment for the poor population of the East End. The hospital mainly treats prostitutes and other disadvantaged women, with Abbie being brought in to assist the doctors and nurses with patient care.
She immediately loves the job, becoming emotionally attached to the patients and sympathizing with their situations. However, there are also the doctors to contend with, one in particular catching Abbie’s eye from their first meeting. This is William Siddal, whose serious nature draws her in but also makes her feel apprehensive around him. He is a very intriguing character, particularly when his parentage and connection to the famous Rossetti’s is revealed.
There is also fellow doctor, Simon St. John, for Abbie to become acquainted with, who turns out to be a neighbour and family friend of her grandmother’s. These two men are very different in personality, but both care immensely about the wellbeing of their patients, firmly believing in the Hospital’s cause to help the underprivileged.
Abbie’s work at the hospital is soon disrupted by the onset of violent murders in the Whitechapel area, with all of the victims being ex-patients. Detective Abberline is soon on the case, questioning the hospital staff, with William and Simon placed under scrutiny. This leaves Abbie unsure who to trust, and when she starts having visions of where the murders are occurring she has no one to share her problems with. These visions are not just of the murders, but often show a chalice symbol accompanied by Latin, leading her to suspect the involvement of some kind of brotherhood. Will Abbie be able to solve the murders before the murderer comes looking for her?
Anyone that knows about the Ripper murders will appreciate the detail that the author has gone to in this book, and I particularly loved how involved the heroine becomes with the hospital setting and her care for the patients. Background knowledge enables the reader to know which of the patients is going to die, but despite this the author still manages to shock with other unexpected events and tragedies. This gave the book a particularly refreshing twist to the mystery, as it wasn’t as predictable as it could have been.
Arabella Sharp is a strong, independent young woman, and it is clear throughout the book that she is still grieving for her mother and struggling to adjust to her new richer life in London. However, despite liking her enthusiasm for the arts I couldn’t decide if I liked the frequent references to notable writers and artists or not, as in places the enthusiasm seemed a little over the top. Her past on the Dublin streets also seemed too convenient for the Victorian setting, as learning to throw knives was definitely not a lady-like activity.
I saw my life before me, flimsy and uncertain as a house of cards, and I knew that it was up to me to fight for what I wanted for my future.
As for the paranormal elements of the plot, I liked the idea of Abbie’s visions as they occur in the present, giving a sense of despair when she is too late to save the victims. I did feel that this story would have been great if these visions were the only paranormal aspect, as the brotherhood plotline didn’t particularly enthral me and I felt like it was a bit too much considering everything else that was going on.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, especially as the author manages to cleverly resolve the mystery and yet still leave the book open for the sequel. Abbie was a great heroine, and I loved how her relationships with the other characters were slowly explored. There are several shocks throughout the book, leaving you unsure how the mystery will end, and although I thought the ending was a bit rushed I still recommend this book to anyone who is intrigued by the Ripper.
This book gives a great twist to the Jack the Ripper mystery, especially by adding paranormal elements into the case. The heroine was very strong, and I loved the setting of Whitechapel Hospital as it enabled the author to give us a range of suspects in an enclosed space. The author manages to shock with some of the events, but I did feel that the ending was a little rushed.
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