Published: 29th September 2011
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
I think it’s genuinely a bit scary how authentic Maureen Johnson’s teenage voice was in this book. Rory sounded how I’d want my main character to sound if I ever wrote a book. She had an individual voice, a strong narrative, a hint of the babble bug. She was witty and sharp and I just adored her.
I felt the characterisation as a whole was really hit and miss. I loved Rory, like I mentioned, and her roommate Jazza. Jazza is a typical quiet girl, she’d rather drink tea and read than do anything daring, unless it’s pointed out to her that no one would expect her to do it, in which case, she’s there. I also LOVED Alastair. He’s my favourite character of this book, even though he plays a fairly minor role. His love of The Smiths helped for sure, but I enjoyed his sarky comments. The rest though, very miss. Charlotte was unfairly persecuted in my eyes, Jerome was a total bore, as were Stephen and Callum and Boo…well. She was just an East End stereotype.
The setting was also a stereotype. A poncy English Boarding School with all sorts of traditions and odd ways. I used to not mind boarding schools but I’m starting to think they’re the setting of choice for the lazy writer. However, despite that, I did manage to feel some of the genuine fear that came from the pupils being locked in an enclosed space whilst murders happened around them. One thing I will say for Johnson is that she managed to outline ways in which England (and Great Britain and the United Kingdom) differ from America without seeming too condescending. Well, I found it slightly condescending, but I’m English and naturally I understand those things weren’t written in for my benefit, but I appreciated the appeal they’d have for American readers.
The take on ghosts in this novel was a really unique one. I feel I say that every review, but it seems authors are going above and beyond to develop the mythology of supernatural creatures at the moment so they don’t get too repetitive. I loved the way in which people came to see ghosts, I thought that was definitely clever. Another thing I loved was how a seemingly insignificant event came to be the whole crux of the story.
I felt some parts of this book dragged slightly, I found myself reading for the enjoyment of the writing, and to find out the end, rather than because I was invested in the characters. I thought the ending was clever however, I love bittersweet victories and whilst it didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it did end on an intriguing note, and left plenty of room for plot development in the later books.
This story contained many elements I adore in a novel. Aspects of the South of the US, a UK setting, a murder mystery and a relatable MC. The use of the Jack the Ripper case was very clever, and very clevery developed on. It’s obvious that a lot of work went into the research for this novel, and Johnson manage to relate the facts of the Ripper case without seeming like she was writing a textbook on the subject. I’d give this book a 4, because of the problems I had with it mentioned above, I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!
I am going to give away my ARC of The Name of the Star!
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