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Victorian Mystery #1

The Ripper's Shadow

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The year is 1888 and Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror.

Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer in Whitechapel, is an independent woman with dark secrets. In the privacy of her studio, she supplements her meager income by taking illicit “boudoir photographs” of the town's local ladies of the night. But when two of her models are found gruesomely murdered within weeks of one another, Sarah begins to suspect it's more than mere coincidence.

Teamed with a motley crew of friends--including a street urchin, a gay aristocrat, a Jewish butcher and his wife, and a beautiful young actress--Sarah delves into the crime of the century. But just as she starts unlocking the Ripper's secrets, she catches the attention of the local police, who believe she knows more than she's revealing, as well as from the Ripper himself, now bent on silencing her and her friends for good.

Caught in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer, Sarah races through Whitechapel's darkest alleys to find the truth...until she makes a shocking discovery that challenges everything she thought she knew about the case. Intelligent and utterly engrossing, Laura Joh Rowland's Victorian mystery The Ripper's Shadow will keep readers up late into the night.

358 pages, Hardcover

First published January 10, 2017

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About the author

Laura Joh Rowland

41 books1,236 followers
Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 274 reviews
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
739 reviews317 followers
March 16, 2018
Meet Sarah Bain! She's an emotionally closed off photographer in 1880's London. She's got a cheap studio in White Chapel where she's been paying the bills lately by taking "boudoir photos" of ladies of the evening. This is a clandestine operation because its Victorian England and everyone is a virginal snowflake and super profitable because its Victorian England and everyone's a sex fiend. Sarah's had a hard life partly because her mom sucked and her dad died and partly because she's a single woman in her thirties at a time when 30 and unmarried was the definition of spinster and partly because women being independent then was not a thing.

But wouldn't you know it? Her models start turning up dead in increasingly disgusting ways! Its almost as if a serial killer is stalking the streets of White Chapel!

Beset with a belief that she's responsible for the murders and thus keeping the remaining models safe Sarah decides to solve the murders herself. But how is a single woman alone in Victorian London who doesn't trust the police to do this you ask!? She's not! Because here come all of the token Victorian mystery sidekicks to help her! Sarah is joined by; Lord Hugh the not so secretly gay high society guy, Mick the plucky, Artful Dodgeresque street urchin, Katherine the gorgeous, chipper, wannabe actress with loose morals, and the Lipsky's, a Jewish butcher and his wife who fill the "token minority" and "super convenient historically accurate suspect" spots quite nicely.

They teach Sarah the value of friendship and help her solve a murder! Isn't that nice?

No, no, no it is not nice it is stupid and dull and poorly written hogwash!!!! Hogwash I tell you!!!!!!!!!

Sarah Bain is one of the weirdest damn narrators I have ever encountered. The book is written in first person present tense (a voice I hate, there's just something so weird about experiencing the action as its taking place) and occupying Sarah's brain is either deadly boring or decidedly creepy depending on what she's thinking about.

Sometimes she's reflecting on how emotionally closed off she is. Sometimes she's thinking about how she can't have friends because she has a "shadow" hanging over her that means bad luck for everyone she cares about because that makes sense and isn't totally stupid. And sometimes she's smelling things. Okay mostly she's smelling things.

I'm being serious. I don't think I've ever read a book where the heroine spent more time just being in her environment smelling everything and everyone. Between the smelling and her weird aversion to forming any relationships at all its like she's some sort of alien who's only sense is smell and she's come to earth where she's totally fascinated by these weird things called human beings and the amazing array of aroma's she's encountering.

She wakes up in the morning and smells her bedroom. She goes to her studio and smells various smells on the street most notably "urine" which comes up maybe 1000 times and then smells the smells in her studio. She meets people and the first thing she does is smell them. Characters are differentiated between by what kind of soap they use, what sort of cologne they wear, how their various careers make them smell, and by the apparently super distinctive smell of being either male or female. I think my favorite smelling scene is anytime Sarah encounters PC Barett, the beat cop who fills the "overzealous officer of the law who eventually stands up to his superiors to do what right" role and the "beat cop who falls in love with Sarah even though they act like they hate each other for the whole book" role. Any time they meet up Sarah is by turns overwhelmed with his "masculine scent" or overwhelmed by the smell of someone "so distinctly male."

Utterly, utterly bizarre I tell you.

Sarah is also violently stupid. I think author Laura Joh Rowland was probably shooting for innocent or possibly naive but she delivered mind numbingly dumb instead. Its not adorable that Sarah doesn't know how to be in a room with people its concerning and weird! Its not sad that she's terrified to the point of catatonia of the police it suggests she needs to go to the country for a rest! Her very, very, very long inner monologues where she repeats the same thoughts about how she's responsible for the models, and her "shadow" is going to doom everyone, and how much she misses her dead dad are not deep and do not provide a better understanding of her character they're epically boring because its ALL she thinks about!

I spent so much time trapped in Sarah's head that I lost all interest in the story which unfolds in a way that suggests this is Ms. Rowland's first time writing anything more complicated than a grocery list rather than the reality that its her gabillionth book and she should bloody well know better.

The Scooby gang decides that all they need to do is figure out who's purchased Sarah's pictures and they'll be the murderer. And guess what!? That's what happens! Everyone's stereotypes are super helpful; closeted gay lord gets them into rich parties, scrappy artful dodger breaks into buildings, Jewish butcher and wife fill the duel roles of victims of persecution and parental figures for Sarah, loose moral actress is bait, and over zealous cop provides way creepy and gross sexy times and Sarah smells it all!

This book was deeply disappointing, especially since Ms. Rowland's Sano Ichiro mysteries set in feudal Japan are totally NOT crappy and should have ensured that this was a really great book. It even provides a pretty cool take on the Ripper story. But even a solid premise cannot carry something so poorly written and with such horrendously stereotypical characters.

Profile Image for Matt.
3,668 reviews12.8k followers
November 9, 2018
In this series debut, Laura Joh Rowland takes readers back to the some of the eerie events from late 19th century London, when a killer lurked in the shadows, eviscerating their victims. It’s 1888 in London’s Whitechapel District and business is booming for photographer Sarah Bain. Having taken over her father’s business, Sarah has cornered the market on capturing people in their daily lives. To make a few extra quid, she’s taken on the lucrative—and illegal—trade of boudoir photos, early pornography to some. Many men will pay a high price to see these photos and Sarah’s been able to stay off the radar all the while. Many of her ‘models’ are prostitutes, making the business even more lucrative, though Sarah does not regret it whatsoever. When a prostitute is found murdered early one morning on the streets, Sarah stumbles upon the crime scene, aghast that she knows the victim. The authorities question her, though Sarah remains mum for the time being. When a second prostitute is found murdered, Sarah discovers that she is another ‘model’, forcing the young photographer to wonder if the killer is sending her a message. As more victims emerged on London streets, Sarah tries to track down who might be behind all these killings, learning some interesting things about key members of the community, from doctors to the Police Constable investigating the slaying. When notes from ‘Jack the Ripper’ begin appearing in writing and print, Sarah and her collection of amateur sleuths can only surmise that the killer is seeking to taunt the authorities, making a mockery of the entire Metropolitan Police Force. As she hones in on a likely suspect, Sarah will need to convince more than her friends that the killer is in their sights. Each day brings a fear that they are one day closer to another killing, another victim known to Sarah Bain. Rowland does well launching this series and keeps the reader guessing throughout. Recommended for those who love Jack the Ripper stories, as well as the reader who has an interest in mysteries set in Victorian England.

I received an advance copy of the third book in this series, but wanted to get the proper context before delving in too deep. Rowland sets the scene well and pulls the reader in from the opening pages, keeping the setting and plot developing throughout. Sarah Bain is an interesting character, taking a somewhat unique perspective in the entire Jack the Ripper themed mystery. A photographer by trade, she is able to capture people in various states, interesting in a time when photographs were still fairly new and the entire process somewhat cumbersome. Rowland’s tying her to the victims through her boudoir work was quite smart, as it creates that connection to the story and those slain with ease. Bain’s past, including a father whose death over two decades ago still haunts her, proves to help shape the woman she has become. Her grit and determination make her the ideal amateur sleuth and helps to propel the narrative forward, through many of the seedier streets and during encounters with some of the less desirable characters. Some of the secondary characters help shape the story more than being simple vessels to push things from one point to another. With this being a series, one can surmise that the reader will encounter a few of them in subsequent novels, particularly if there are more mysteries to be had. I liked the banter between the authorities and the amateur sleuths, one trying to outdo the other while never losing track of the ultimate goal. It will surely permit some new faces to rise up and make an indelible mark on the attentive reader, given time and the length of the series. Overall, the story worked well and kept my attention. Rowland has a significant piece of London lore as a backdrop and I was impressed with how she personalised it, without jumbling up too many facts. There is much to be said about her approach, which mixes what is known in the history texts and a unique perspective that allows a fresh approach to a much discussed topic. I’ll be sure to check out the second book soon, before tackling the ARC that awaits.
Kudos, Madam Rowland, for an interesting spin on an old mystery. I cannot wait to read more in the series and am considering some of your other work as well.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Jody McGrath.
349 reviews52 followers
November 26, 2016
This is a very new take on The Jack the Ripper killings. It involves a woman photographer who take boudoir (soft core porn) pictures of prostitutes. These are the girls that make the cut. (No pun intended). It also brings together a motley crew of outsiders who were the best part of the story.
My problem with the book was that a lot was repeated and the flow was really slow. That being said it was a nice alternate reality.

* I read an ARC of this book and gave an honest review *
Profile Image for Jane.
2,681 reviews52 followers
August 5, 2017
And the prize for The Most Irritating Mystery In The Solar System goes to . . . it's a toss up between Dan Brown's consummately stupid Da Vinci Code and this piece of literary poop. My nose is sore from all the snorting I did as I plowed through the first half - at which point, I quit. Rowland's heroine is a young woman photographer who has a secret trust fund, for the only time you see her working, she doesn't charge for her pictures. Remember, the story is set in 1888, so the idea of a professional woman photographer with her own shop is pretty outré - but it gets worse. We find that she's befriended all Jack the Ripper's victims, a set of sad old prostitutes - and she's photographed them and sold the naughty nudie pix as pornography. Really, Laura? Have you seen the Ripper's victims? Most were toothless, middle-aged gin soaks. Whack-off material they were not. Yet Jack seems to be picking his victims based on her work -oh, horrors! It's up to our heroine to solve the mystery before he bumps off the lot. Sarah Bain Is RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING. Can she do it? Can she save the prostitutes who are still alive? Can she also save the lives of her highly unlikely posse, made up of a gay Lord Hugh (whom she catches in flagrante, after which they become fast friends), a Russian immigrant Jew, a disturbingly hot constable and a mudlark? She's known them for two weeks, yet they've all bonded like Gorilla Glue. I'll never know the answer, because I couldn't finish this hideous botch of a book.
Profile Image for Jess.
502 reviews117 followers
December 1, 2017
Well. Crap. What is one to do when the novel you selected for a whodunit postal group exchange is rather lacking... hope that it provides much material for journal entries?

This is my pick for a postal group mystery/thriller exchange for the upcoming year. I love a good Jack the Ripper story. I've been fascinated with the time period, the investigation, the theories, and not to be morbid but the killer/victims as well. I've read bios, watched numerous documentaries, and also love fiction based on the events. So perhaps my background in it was more of a hindrance than help? I just found this novel rather lacking. It was choppy, abrupt, and had a few plot point that were just so fantastical it didn't work. Also, the text and flow of the book felt so modern. It doesn't read like a historical piece of fiction. Overall it was just an 'ok' read. Which disappointed me as the plot premise sounded rather original. If you want to read a few more spoiler like gripes- see below:

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,209 reviews551 followers
November 21, 2018
Introductory novel to a series set in Victorian London. Sarah is our central protagonist. She is a photographer by sustaining vocation. She's solitary, family deceased. But every character is Dickens-like, IMHO. Aristocrat with a slumming secret and associations of "understanding"- a scrappy young teen, a prostitute with a heart of gold, a clever and industrious young woman (virgin as usual), a clean and adequate of funds and job "good guy" cop, and of course, the baddie, baddie monster.

So because of that aspect, it's hard for me to get well past the stereotypes. And what makes it the most problematic for my enjoyment is that this is probably the most difficult period of all for me to dive within throughout English history. Angels or devils. Muck or elegance. And hardly any aspects in between and if they are "there", they seem to vanish into either end of "condition" by the finish. It's been so overdone. Just like the WWII period in the last 10 years in English language fiction.

Here there was enough of the interaction and connect to keep you going. But I think I will like other more imaginative factors beyond "the Ripper" in the next book.

Universally I nearly always appreciate the first book of a series to a lesser star degree- as just too much descriptive background "explaining". One of the exceptions was Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. And that one went downhill after 3 or so. So maybe with this, it will just get better.

I would categorize this a cozy despite the sexual encounter descriptions or mores scales. Not only in language or dialect either. It's the tone. Very non-gritty and not at all as cockney London language is/ connotes. Death by condition, disease, serendipity being horrendous then. This has NOT the feel of the reality. How can a photographer afford what she does here and never charge for the one job she seems to contract. Also the characters bond too fast for this period and its reality of tone. They'd be like lambs to the slaughter if they trusted that quickly. Those kinds of things just make it a cozy and not at all real or grit depth. Sarah also is the cause and core of everything involved in the methods and manner. That's pure cozy.

So here's a series to entertain if you want the good guys to be naive trusters who then proceed to win. And that has no connection to actual real world economics or historical period scales of monetary existent criteria.

Ok, a disclaimer that I have to add at the end. Know that I am NOT a Dickens fan. Never was. He has episodic writing in stereotype characterizations. With maudlin and melodramatic tones that are continual cliff hangers to have you "tuning in next week". So if you like Dickens and he makes your heart pitty-pat- you will like Sarah's world much more than I.
Profile Image for Kathy Martin.
3,336 reviews73 followers
December 7, 2016
Miss Sarah Bain is a photographer in Whtechapel in London in 1888. She supplements her income by taking "naughty" photographs of prostitutes which happens to be a crime. When her subjects start being murdered in gruesome ways, she decides that she has to protect them and herself by finding the killer.

Sarah is assisted by a street urchin named Mick, a homosexual aristocrat named Hugh, a Jewish butcher and his wife, and a lovely young actress. After years of keeping people at a distance, Sarah is building herself a new family. They bond quickly as they do their investigations and find themselves in all kinds of danger.

I enjoyed the Victorian setting with the fog, soot, and grunge that fill the pages. The corrupt police, prejudicial treatment of the immigrants, the attitude toward homosexuals, and the attitude toward a woman who has a career fill this story and add to the tension. I also enjoyed this version of the Jack the Ripper story.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this one.
1,818 reviews63 followers
April 14, 2022
This is a smarmy little book without any social redeeming value. It wallows in violence, and I could live a lifetime without a word picture of two men committing sodomy. The only reason I give it a second star is because Rowland can write. I read this because I saw many good reviews on goodreads, but for once I think they got it wrong. Not recommended.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,365 reviews44 followers
January 10, 2017
Compelling, sensitive and provocative.

First up I need to declare that I am a huge fan of Laura Joh Rowland. I have read all of her
Sano Ichiro Novel's and loved them. But this work is a far departure from those detective novels set in feudal Japan. Yet it contains the distinctive Rowland stamp of complex mystery and chilling intrigue.
The thing about Rowland is that she approaches a topic slightly out of left field. I was wondering how she was going to write another 'yawn' Jack the Ripper novel about prostitutes being gutted in the Whitechapel area of the East End in 1888.
Well there's no yawn about Rowland's Ripper's Shadow; rather we are treated to an intelligent, thoughtful and completely unique look at events through the eyes of a lonely spinster photographer. Not only that, but it seems it is the spinster's risqué boudoir photographs of the victims might be the key that links the murders.
Rowland draws together a group of unlikely conspirators bent on finding the Ripper. Sarah Bain because she feels guilty that her photographs appear to have led the Ripper to his victims.
Sara does all she can to protect the women. Along the way she gathers up other characters who come to assist her--Lord Hugh Staunton, whose partner preferences are of the male variety--a dangerous thing in Victorian England, Mick a rather wonderful street urchin, the Lepskys, a Russian Jewish couple who understand death and persecution, and Catherine, a young and beautiful actress, one of the women Sara photographed.
The brilliant depiction of the wider community endeavouring to band together to find the killer in the face of what they see as police ineptness, the palpable fear that spurs on mobs to rioting, and the dankness and stench of the alleyways and sewers such as where Mick lives are real.
As the story progresses we delve more deeply into the psyche of the main characters. Sarah has her own demons--a father who was killed in riots for which she blames herself, a lack of confidence, a fear of the police and serious bouts of anger. Catherine too has damaging secrets.
As things progress the group realize that there is not one but two Rippers. Sarah becomes a target for the police and her friends are dragged into the limelight. The tensions that develop are exquisitely wrought. Sarah's reactions constantly surprise herself and us. This in turn ensures that you are never quite sure what will happen, but that something shocking will follow as Sara and her friends race towards a climax seemingly set in motion by a few titillating photographs.

A NetGalley ARC
Profile Image for Tam.
1,756 reviews40 followers
February 10, 2017
This book was one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I literally could not put it down. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. Since I am a somewhat slow reader, because I want to absorb every nuance of a book, it took me about eight straight hours to read this... and it was worth every single second!

In this novel, Rowland adds a fresh, new twist to the legend of Jack the Ripper. Every single character is rich and vibrant and crafted with such depth. You start to feel as if you "know" them, and their trials, tribulations, joys, sorrows, pain and victories become your own, as well.

This book and its delightful, quirky cast pay homage to the mantra that "Friends are the family that YOU choose," as it sweeps you from the seedy underbelly of 1888 London, through the streets of the poverty-stricken immigrants and working class, into the sinister lair of a ruthless serial killer, behind the bars of the dreaded Newgate Prison, to the cozy photography shop where friends and fiends alike trod over the doorstep.

This novel is packed from beginning to end with murder, mayhem, mystery and intrigue.

It is lovely to watch Sarah "blossom" and come out of her shell. Mick is a loveable ragamuffin ruffian that tugs at your heart strings. The Lipskys are warm, kind and generous Russian Jews ruthlessly harassed and persecuted for nothing more than their faith and heritage. Hugh leads a double life and is a classic example of someone struggling for acceptance within himself as well as within the circle of friends around him. Catherine is a troubled soul who seeks to stave off thoughts of her dark past with gaiety, frivolity and a light, trivialness of spirit. PC Barrett is a combination of bold and brash yet timid and susceptible to peer pressure. Sometimes, you don't know whether you want to smack him in the head or smack him on the lips.

When all of these characters come together to bring down The Ripper, a thrilling, heart-pounding and heart-warming story is born. This novel has the best of several genres combined: crime thriller, suspense and romance.

I am heartily wishing that Rowland decides to pen another novel dedicated to these characters.

*I received a complimentary ARC copy of this book from NetGalley in order to read and give an honest review.
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,638 reviews190 followers
February 2, 2020
2017; Crooked Lane Books

The title of The Ripper's Shadow both intrigued me and turned me off. There are so many things out there with the Ripper's myth I wasn't sure if I wanted to take on another. I am so glad I decided to go for it as I loved this book. Sarah Bain, the protagonist, is a savvy fierce lead. She is a photographer, that runs her own studio, but to make actual money she photographs local women "of the night". When two of the women she photographed turn up brutally murdered, Sarah suspects there is more to the story. Along the way, the private quiet Sarah joins up with a "street urchin", wealthy titled outsider due to his sexual preferences, a beautiful actress and a Jewish Butcher to look into the killings in White Chapel. The police catch on to Sarah and her crew looking into the crimes and wonder what her involvement in the crime is. Soon Sarah is not sure if the police are looking into the crimes or covering them up.

I liked Rowland's take on the Ripper case (and the conclusion) but it was the characters that I fell in love with. I not only enjoyed the characters but really liked the chemistry between them. What really draws me into a series, especially mysteries, is the chemistry of the characters in the group. I don't like when they are forced together or use bickering instead of bantering. Book one set up the series well, and left it open for book two. I am looking forward to the next book.

***I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.***
Profile Image for Brenda H.
828 reviews70 followers
September 24, 2018
The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland is the first book in the Victorian Mystery series. In this story, the year is 1888 and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing London. Sarah Bain, a photographer in Whitechapel, believes that she may know how The Ripper is finding his victims…and it’s her fault.

Sarah is living on the edge, barely making enough from her photography to pay her monthly rent and to feed herself. So, when one of the streetwalkers of Whitechapel proposes a way to make money from illicit “boudoir photographs” Sarah accepts. However, now two of her “models” have been killed by The Ripper and she fears for the safety of the others.

Over the course of the story, Sarah collects a varied assortment of friends who are willing to help her protect her models and to discover the identity of The Ripper. Lord Hugh Staunton, a gay nobleman who she found “in flagrante”; Mick, a street urchin who she befriended after he tried to steal her photography equipment; Catherine, an aspiring actress and one of her models; and a Jewish butcher and his wife. Unfortunately, Sarah and her friends also catch the eye of the London police who are doing what they can to take down the killer as well as the attention of the killer himself.

The story was suspenseful and interesting. There were points when the pacing was a bit slow but it didn’t detract from the story and Rowland’s unique take on Jack the Ripper. I will be continuing with the series.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Димитър Цолов.
Author 28 books266 followers
November 19, 2020
Голяма греда нацелих с тази книга. Личността на Джак Изкормвача ми е слабост, дори и аз съм експлоатирал темата (прочети как тук: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.ph... :)), но изпълнението на Лора Джо Роуланд въобще не ми хареса. Главната героиня беше мрънкалница от класа, която реално не направи нищо до самия финал, крайно смехотворен финал, при това, защото четирима-петима, уж подготвени за схватка хора, се видяха в живо чудо с престъпника... то е ясно, че трябва да има кулминация, ама не точно такава... А абсолютно несъвместимата от гледна точка на времевите реалии компанията от детективи-доброволци сякаш беше подготвена за церемонията на Оскарите - благородник - гей, гамен хомофоб и антисемит и двойка евреи с руско потекло, които, забележете, имаха картина на Богородица и Младенеца в дома си..., честно щях да се гръмна в челото с дръжката на ножа... О, забравих да спомена, зачекната беше и темата за насилието над негрите в Африка през време на Кафирските войни... Изобщо полит-кур-еректност до дупка, идваща ми вече лекинко в повече...

В добавка и преводът нещо не ми се понрави. Уви, не владея английски достатъчно добре, за да проверя текста в оригинал, но дори и кака Лора постоянно да е вмъквала изречения в сегашно време сред принципно вървящото в минало време повествование, на български комбинации от изречения като следната:

Хю беше поразен у ужасѐн. Въпреки, че е невинен, дори и да бъде оправдан ще страда.

лично за мен не звучат много добре...
Profile Image for Mindy.
308 reviews38 followers
December 14, 2018
DNF @ 124 pages

I don't rate DNF's. This was not at all what I was hoping for. This is the second book that I was very excited for because of the cover and the concept. Both fell so short of my high expectations, but at least I finished the other one. I couldn't even do that with this one. I have never read a mystery that was considered a cozy mystery but it seemed like that's what this one was trying to be. I absolutely wasn't expecting that with a book that is supposed to be about a woman taking naked pictures of prostitutes and the killer that is stalking them. Just really not for me.
Profile Image for Tracie Gutknecht.
999 reviews8 followers
June 5, 2019
This book wasn't what I was expecting--in a good way.

Sarah Bain is a photographer in London. She lives near the Whitechapel district, but is slightly better off financially than many in that area. She keeps to herself and lives a quiet life. That all changes when some of her photographic subjects are murdered. Most of these girls were prostitutes and the photos she took of them were boudoir photos. She is concerned for the lives of the other girls and is determined to save them from the same fate.

In her efforts she comes across and befriends a rag tag bunch of people--The Lipsky's--a Russian Jewish butcher and his wife--Hugh Staunton--a gay aristocrat, Mick--a street urchin and Catherine a wannabe actress. This group of characters literally stumble, fumble and bumble their way through the Ripper killings. They manage to solve the mystery behind the murders but don't have proof.

This book was an interesting take on the tale of Jack the Ripper. Rowland took real events and people and created her own scenario. I enjoyed the characters and the team they created. There are parts that move a little slowly and the ending was a bit wacky. All in all, I liked the story and might visit the next book in the series to see what the team is up to.
Profile Image for Joe Slavinsky.
967 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2017
I've read all 18, of Ms Rowland's "Sano Ichiro" series, which was set in feudal Japan. There was lots of samurai action, political intrigue, and life and death tension. It was overly dramatic, but that seemed appropriate. I suspect she discontinued the series, because she had wrung out every last melodramatic moment. This book is not only overtly melodramatic, it stretches believability to the max. The premise is an original new take on the Ripper, which made me pick up the book, but the execution left me wanting. I couldn't even finish the book, and I'm one who will stick with a book, trying to find some redeeming feature. In most books, if the premise is good, even if far-fetched, I'll go with it, as long as the writing/characters/pace are good. All the while I was reading, I kept thinking this character doesn't fit, these characters would never mix, the main character is too much of a drama queen, etc. Finally, I gave up. I'm sure there are lots of people who will love this book. I'm just not one of them.
Profile Image for Piepie | The Napping Bibliophile.
1,906 reviews139 followers
June 19, 2019
Fantastic! Laura Joh Rowland takes the reader on a wild and wonderful journey through the streets of Whitechapel. Through the eyes of Sarah Bain, photographer, who has secrets and baggage, London 1888 comes alive in this Jack the Ripper interpretation. Sarah is single, in her 30s, and keeps to herself. But in this book she finds herself surrounded by a circle of people all different from each other as they can be - and they all become friends as they try to identify the Ripper (or, Rippers). I can't wait for the sequel!
Profile Image for Sandy.
79 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2019
A weird, disconnected slog of a mystery novel. The emotional beats and character changes were incredibly abrupt and made little sense (why did Sarah and Hugh suddenly become friends? why would Sarah ever fall in love with that police guy?? etc), Sarah herself was a main character I became quickly and deeply uninterested in, and the entire book just did not work for me on a pretty fundamental level. I did like some of the history and parts of the mystery itself, which pulled me forward enough that I at least finished the book, but that was really it.

A low two stars.
Profile Image for Viccy.
1,980 reviews4 followers
June 21, 2017
I just could not finish this which is too bad because really loved Rowland's Japanese history novels. The protagonist was a wimp; there were just too many improbable actions and I did not like any of the other characters.
47 reviews
May 12, 2019
This book kept me wanting to keep reading it. Every time I put it down, I wanted to pick it back up and read some more. I was glad to see that there are more books in this series and that the story continues with the same characters!
Profile Image for Ann.
957 reviews63 followers
June 8, 2018
This reminded me why I've moved away from reading much historical fiction in recent years: too much explanation of the period, too much inclusion of pointless historical details that the author couldn't bear to edit for the sake of plot and character. Added to that is a pill of a heroine who hammers out every point she makes, and tons of gratuitous sexual details (even for a book where several characters are prostitutes). I really love Victorian London as a topic and find Jack the Ripper interesting, but getting through 50 pages of this was a chore I was happy to give up.
Profile Image for Ruhani.
141 reviews4 followers
July 13, 2021
Long book - the audio took 12 hours. Despite her overall pluckiness, the neediness and the emotional fearfulness of the heroine annoyed me at times. Being victimized and bullied by the police time and again was unpleasant (though I guess this was true of the times). Yet the subject matter was explosive and the story kept me riveted and gave me a sense of the powerlessness of those in the fringes of society in 19th century London (and in more parts of the world that we would imagine even in this present day). Also loved the motley crew the heroine gathered around her. Look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,499 reviews187 followers
November 27, 2020
There's something about a mystery that occurs in the Victorian or Edwardian period that I love -- who knows why? Perhaps because of the Sherlock Holmes stories I read in my high school years....
Anyway, this takes place during the Victorian period, and main character Sarah Bain, a photographer with a deep mistrust of everyone because of her father's disappearance when she was a child and her mother's subsequent fear and scepticism over others' motives, becomes involved with a small group of people when the Ripper murders begin occurring.
Sarah actually has a connection to the murdered women, who were her models for a series of erotic/pornographic photos. Sarah becomes convinced, after the police become interested in her, that someone in the upper class is targeting the models for their immorality and disposability because they're prostitutes.
Sarah and her group begin investigating, and keep running up against the police, specifically Constable Barrett, who is suspicious of her because she tends to be somewhat awkward in her interactions with others, and this actually garners her further scrutiny.
The group is made up of people typically seen as odd and unusual by polite society, but they each bring diverse skills to the job, and they actually fare better than the police do at narrowing down suspects.

This is the start of this series by Laura Joh Rowland, and it felt a little weak in places, such as Sarah's characterization, which veered from socially awkward and mistrustful, to suddenly trusting. This didn't ring true, as mistrust is a many years-long habit that she would be unlikely to change in just a few days. Also, Sarah's sudden thawing towards Constable Barrett wasn't handled well.
I also had an issue with the author's saying all the women were prostitutes, which actually wasn't the case. Even the real life police of the time investigating the Ripper murders did not characterize the women simply as prostitutes. The five women ended up in Whitechapel because of a combination of alcoholism, terrible poverty, few opportunities, and family issues (as described by Hallie Rubenhold in The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper).
I did like the mystery, the other characters (except for Constable Barrett) and the dynamic amongst the group of people who ended up around Sarah. Will I read the next installment? Most likely, as I am interested in Sarah Bain and the others working as inquiry agents.
Profile Image for J. Roslyn.
92 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2017
Laura Joh Rowland skillfully weaves facts with fiction in her convincing take on the Jack the Ripper murders. As her tale unfolds, she also demonstrates that the 21st century holds no monopoly on vicious killers or on odd-sock families created not by blood but by warm friendship.

Sarah Bain is thirty-something and unmarried, which in the London of 1888, means she is considered a spinster. After her father died, Sarah kept his photography business going in the heart of the East End of London. Photography has become both her profession and her life, and her views of the world are often through the lens of her camera.

Running a business in Victorian times was extraordinarily difficult for a single woman, and even more difficult for Sarah because her late mother convinced her that everyone will betray her. Friendless, with no family, and desperately needing funds to stay in business, Sarah agrees to a plan proposed by local prostitutes to photograph them in various states of undress and then split the profits from the sale of the photos. To Sarah's surprise, these ladies slowly befriend her. When Sarah discovers that two of the victims of a brutal murderer, labeled "the Ripper," are her ladies, she desperately sets out to uncover the murderer and save her remaining friends.

Along the way, Sarah casts off the lonely paranoia instilled by her dead mother as she is befriended by the Lipskys, Russian Jewish immigrants grieving for a lost child, Hugh, an aristocrat who relies on Sarah to keep his sexual orientation secret, Mick, a young, street-wise boy with no home or parents, and Catherine, one of her photography models who is surprisingly naive. Together this odd crew forms an equally odd family as they seek the murderer.

The premise of "The Ripper's Shadow" is fascinating: a female photographer in late Victoria London on the trail of the most famous serial killer in history. It is the iconoclastic characters, however, and their interactions with each other, that sets this novel apart from other Victorian era mysteries.

(In return for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Profile Image for Linda Munro.
1,750 reviews27 followers
April 20, 2018
Here is an all new idea as to who Jack Ripper was and why he suddenly disappeared! Very imaginative! Extremely Interesting!

Sarah Bain is a single woman, a photographer living in Whitechapel. She runs her business as Bain & son; a more respectable name for the era. Sarah, however, has deep, dark, secrets; because, everyone needs to do what they must simply to get by. Sarah takes ‘boudoir photographs’ of local ladies of the night!

Sarah realizes something early on; two of her boudoir models have been murdered, slashed; and Sarah fears that the murderer is using her photographs to locate his subjects!

Sarah teams up with friends, old and new to watch & protect her models and to learn who this “Ripper” is. Of course, her friends make quite the motley crew: a street urchin named Mick; a gay aristocrat; a Jewish butcher and his wife; & last, but not least a beautiful actress who is also Sarah’s model! Of course, these types of friends are enough to capture the attention of the police; for both her and her friends.

Will Sarah find the truth? Will she discover who the Ripper is? Will she and her friends be permanently silenced by the police?

Learn the answers to these questions & more by reading this awesome book!
383 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2018
This was a great book. This was a very different take on Jack the Ripper and I can see how some people found it far-fetched that Sarah and her misfit band try to solve the murders, however, this is fiction. There are numerous Victorian heroines solving crimes in the fiction world. I liked each of the characters a great deal, except maybe PC Barrett (although he comes through at times). Now, some people didn’t like the “pornographic” descriptions of some photos taken by Sarah and I wasn’t crazy about it, but the description of the photos was a very small part of the book even though the photos are a major plot point. Also, Jack the Ripper deals with prostitutes and ghoulish murder, so there is some sex and gory death scenes. There was one part toward the end dealing with female “hysteria” that was disturbing. So, even with all of that, I liked where the author went with Jack and can’t wait to read the next book to find out what happens next with Sarah, Mick, and Hugh.
Profile Image for Helene.
246 reviews3 followers
June 29, 2019
I apparently LOVE all fiction takes on the Ripper case, because damn. I love how "real" this book feels. Nothing in it is sugar-coated and it gives a really good picture of how it was to be poor in Victorian London. The main character Sarah isn't a fancy lady with big puffy dresses. She nearly gets by and has to take some shady pictures of streetwalkers and sell them in an underground environment that the police doesn't even know exists.

She's endlessly afraid of the police and when her models turn up dead in the streets (Jack the Ripper ofc) she tries to work around them and figure out things herself. She only get help from a Jewish couple, a boy from the streets and a homosexual man. All kinds of people that wasn't "worth anything" back then.

That the murders doesn't happen in the correct order and they include the two who wasn't in the "Canonical five" but believed to be Jack too, doesn't bother me at all. It's the authors take on the case and I really like it!!
Profile Image for Elyse.
2,429 reviews122 followers
January 9, 2019
3.5 stars raised to 4 stars. I got an ARC of third book of this series and had a few Audible credits so I picked up this one and the second one. I really liked the narrator which always helps an audiobook. I liked that the MC was a woman and very independent. I liked that she was a photographer. I really liked Mick and Hugh as well. They are a fun, good team. There were some gruesome parts, it is Jack the Ripper after all, but they didn't put me off the book. Some improbable parts/people/actions but still an enjoyable read. Everything fell together too nicely but I didn't inspect that too much. I quickly started listening to the second one.
Profile Image for Mary Montgomery.
271 reviews
July 17, 2017
Oh my gosh I called this the "damn book." It almost made me late for stuff and I had a really hard time ever putting it down.

Ms. Rowland is an excellent writer. I think most of her characters are very well-developed and the action is flawless. She also inserted some history, which I always enjoy. And you have to admit the subject matter is engrossing.

I'm thinking this is the first in a series, and I'll be reading them all.
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