Happy new year everyone! As a part of my new year’s resolution, I want to post at least two reviews here every month, so i reflect more about what I read. I decided to group the first two books of SJTR in one review because… well, I was too lazy to separate them, and all my thoughts have become merged. I’ll keep the review for SJTR in the first half, and HPD in the second half, and there will be no spoilers for either book, i promise! Without further ado, here’s some of my thoughts on Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco!
STALKING JACK THE RIPPER – ★★★.5
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
It’s a really good mystery/historical fiction novel, and left me with some chills (and an urge to binge the copycat Ripper documentary on Neflix, which was done really well). However, I’m in no way knowledgeable about Victorian culture or details about Jack the Ripper, so I don’t know if the historical things are portrayed well. But overall, gOSH i’m invested in this story now!
AUDREY ROSE AND THOMAS!!! WADSWORTH AND CRESSWELL!!! They’re the cutest eVER (although i don’t think Cresswell’s incessant flirting would have been appropriate in the time period, but I’ll ignore that because dhdjejd they’re so adorable)
I loved how all the characters were linked to each other in some way, and it forms an intricate net of suspects. Cousin Liza was a good foil character to Audrey Rose, because she shows the type of girl that Audrey would have become if she followed society’s standards (but Liza still manages to have a wild streak out of her mother’s sight, which i find pretty great). But also, I feel like Audrey’s brother and father were a bit redundant? They played similar roles in their quest to keep Audrey at home, and I just don’t see why they had to include both the father and the brother. Ugh they’re so annoying.
I’ll admit, the plot was slow to start. Until around 45% through, the book was filled with exposition, and was not as fast-paced as I prefer. And the last chapter was kind of anticlimactic, although the author is probably trying to set up the next book’s premise, which makes sense. The middle-to-end section was so good though! The suspense was unreal and I was getting chills!
Also, I SUSPECTED EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER AS JACK THE RIPPER! Mystery books aren’t my main genre, so I probably can’t judge how good the suspense is, but the set-up was amazing! The only not-so-great part is at the climax, where the villain goes on a long monologue about his motivations, which is a classic show-don’t-tell mistake that really bugs me. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the story!
Victorian England? That’s right up my alley! I liked all of Kerri’s intricate descriptions of Audrey performing autopsies, and it definitely seems like Kerri did her research! Another thing I adored was the black-and-white photographs — it made the book look more like a medical journal, as the structure suggests! One of the pictures was a little bit gruesome (and definitely not what I wanted to see at 2am), but I think it set the atmosphere very well. I want more historical books with pictures!
I also think that the murder scenes were written beautifully. We had the perfect amount of words to create our own image of the scene. That said, SJTR was really chilling to read at night, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA – ★★★★
Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine… and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.
I’m terrified of bats, spiders, forests, bathtubs and Romania now…
Maybe I’m just the worst mystery/thriller reader, but gOSH I could not cope with the suspense that was built up throughout the book!! when the “real action” started around the 60% mark, I was QUAKING (and keep in mind that this was at 1am… not the best time to read a book with murderous Dracula wannabes). It was scary, to say the least.
Again, I really really loved Audrey Rose and Thomas in this book, and how they worked together. I also appreciated how Audrey Rose actually had PTSD at the beginning of the book because it makes sense since she witnessed so many traumatic events throughout the previous book, but then it just… went away? I would have loved to see that expanded upon in the book. And Thomas is just so sweet and such a purehearted person… He was trying his best to be the kind of guy that Audrey was looking for, and that’s all I need!
But of course, there were some very very cheesy lines said by Thomas that made me cringe, but I’ll accept that too because it’s Thomas and we all love him. Audrey Rose was the kind of stubborn female protagonist that all YA books seem to have, but here she’s just doing things so impulsively for the sake of being different?? I just want to whack some sense into this girl, to let her know that going exploring at night when people are dying is not a smart thing to do.
The side characters were lacking in development, I think. It seemed like they were put in for the sole purpose of having more people to accuse, and they weren’t developed at all. The WLW couple receive a few lines about how love is love from Audrey, and thats the extent of their character arc. I don’t even remember the names of the other students, which shows how irrelevant they were to anything.
In conclusion: Thomas carried this book all by himself. Someone give him his well-deserved praise.
REALLY REALLY GOOD!! Again, I had NO IDEA who the murderer was until they were revealed.
The plot doesn’t start picking up until 60% through, even though small murders have been happening along the way. I wasn’t very attached to the story until the halfway mark, but I read it anyways because Kerri writes the climax of her books really well. She does a great job with balancing the suspense with the humour, and it was a really enjoyable read! The tension is being built throughout the book, but it really gets that push at 60% through. Stick with the plot, and I’m sure you’ll love it!
According to actual Romanians, the use of Romanian vocabulary and the folktales were good? Props to Kerri on this one! I was expecting some backlash on it (as many books with foreign language vocabulary have faced), but I was positively surprised. Side note, I really loved reading the author’s note at the end with the historical deviations that she took. I found it really interesting to see how she altered real events to fit with the book!
Also, I will gush forever about how creepy the tunnels were. It was so smartly designed and made me shiver at 3am!
However, one thing that bugged me was the impropriety between Audrey Rose and Thomas. Like yes, I loved their little romantic moments, but it really wouldn’t have happened in the 1880’s, or Audrey Rose would have been a shame to her family. One does not simply solve murders with a boy without a chaperone present… tsk tsk Audrey Rose, where are your manners?
In conclusion, I really liked the first two books of this series, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next/last two: Escaping from Houdini and Capturing the Devil!