Mitch's Reviews > Ripper

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
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May 09, 12

bookshelves: ya-by-guys-for-guys
Read on May 04, 2012

A severe case of reader/book incompatibility. If I'd been half my age, I'd have given Ripper double the rating I'm giving it now, because the classification on this one is wrong. Despite the serious subject matter, Ripper is NOT a young adult book, it's a children's book. The writing style, the plot on rails, the transparent characters, I would've loved this book years ago, but now that I'm looking for something a bit more serious, meatier and grittier, all of it just irks me.

Actually, part of my annoyance has to do with the first chapter, the teaser showing the first crime before the real story begins. That was actually good. Bloodless, but good. Nervous tone, creepy villain, I was actually looking forward to Carver's story. Until I got to chapter two and realized the writing's just too cute to take seriously. I don't mean this as an insult, but looking at Petrucha's author profile, I see he's written a couple of Nancy Drew comics, and the writing here reminds me of Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, full of juvenile energy, the kind filled with kiddie excitement at the prospect of solving a crime. But when you're solving not missing cash or lost pets but (sort of) murders, sorry, light tone didn't work on me. On my ten year old self, probably, just not now.

The historical aspect didn't work either. Don't get me wrong, Petrucha certainly did his homework, but there's something odd about the way it's incorporated into the story, like all the facts about nineteenth century New York were more for cool points than necessary or integral to the investigation. Actually, might have something to do with the writing style again, because I've read historical novels with historical facts seemlessly woven into the plot, but yeah, most of the facts just stick out here, like they're shouting 'hey, did you know this? cool right?' Not really.

And the plot itself. This is very spoilery, but it's not that hard to figure out. Ok, so Hawking is guiding Carver along to find his father, giving him hints, congratulating him when he's on the right track. Except in order to do that, he would've already have run through the investigation, which means he'd already know who Carver's father is, right? Yep. Why doesn't Carver just ask him then and be done with the whole charade? And then Tudd says Jack the Ripper, who everyone guesses to be Carver's father, would insert himself into Carver's search for his father. Now why give away the entire thing before even half the book's over? (view spoiler) Yeah, the entire time, everything's on rails, sometimes it seems Carver's going someplace just so Petrucha can impress us with more of his research, but mostly it's Hawking guiding Carver along like he's on a string, all the while everyone else is praising him for his sharp instincts and great detective skills.

And that leads me finally to characters. Carver, despite everyone's praise, can't be that great if he's basically being strung along and Hawking's the stereotypical bitter old man. And the whole thing about Carver being the son of a serial killer? Kind of superficially done, yeah he's horrified but he doesn't really think or reflect on it much, people just tell him he's different from Jack the Ripper, not a killer, and he accepts it. Honestly, the only character I actually liked was Roosevelt, because I thought Petrucha captured his personality really well, brash and loud, but personable. At least he and Alice actually got an ending, most of the other supporting characters fade into the woodwork during the investigation.

And that's all it comes down to. I just see too many holes in this story, interesting aspects that I really wished got some more attention, other stuff that could be incorporated into the book a bit better. I'd recommend this to kids interested in a well researched nineteenth century detective story in a heartbeat, but for everyone else, either I Hunt Killers for a more serious teen crime series or one of the many great crime thrillers out there.
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Reading Progress

05/04/2012 page 183
43.0% "Writing style's like a middle grade book, it's so cute, but it's about Jack the Ripper? I don't know who'd read this seriously."

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