emma's Reviews > Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
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did not like it
bookshelves: ya, mystery-thriller-horror-etc, historical, owned, unpopular-opinion, 1-star, nope, reviewed, comments

If you opened up a PDF of this book and control-F searched it for the phrase “kind of girl,” your computer would explode. Or suddenly bypass decades of hypothesized technological progress and instantly become cognizant and emotional, developing the ability to feel just so it could ask you, personally, why the author of this book thought she could possibly write anything remotely empowering to women while taking down women at large at every turn.

This book is so bad and so unfeminist it could cause the singularity.

Here are the main ways this book is bad:


1) IT’S SEXIST

This whole thing posits itself as if it were a confection baked in a feminist bakery. An equality cupcake with empowerment frosting and the death of misogyny on top. It is, after all, a revisionist history in which we all get to pretend that a girl (a girl! Named Audrey Rose) was pivotal in the solving of the Jack the Ripper case (and please ignore the part where that case isn’t actually solved), and also that girl is a mortician living a secret life. Because she’s rich! And respected! And the whole thing should be so deliciously contrary to gender roles and also dead body-y and we get to have a great, corpsey time. This is what I wanted.

If you’ve ever read one of my reviews before, this is where you get worried. (If you weren’t already worried when you saw that sweet sweet one star rating.) Because I never, never, NEVER!!! get what I want from books. And true to form, this book took one look at my hopes and dreams and asked “Oh, are these your expectations?” And then when I nodded excitedly, it ate them.

Or something.

Clearly, and for so many reasons we’ll get into later, this author has no f*cking idea how to write a powerful female character. Instead, she has to resort to tearing down other girls to make her value brand spoiled brat of a wannabe badass seem strong.

Here are some examples.

Instead of writing a character who is more focused on her work/dreams/achievements/family/friends/the scene outside her window/the history of umbrellas/weekly school board meetings/ostriches than the cute boy nearby, she writes: “I was thankful I wasn’t the kind of girl to lose my mind over a handsome face.” Pity that all that internalized sexism was for naught anyway, considering our lovely protagonist spends the entire f*cking book losing her mind over that exact handsome face.

Instead of writing a powerful, brave, unrelenting narrator who doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, she writes: “I wasn’t the sort of girl who backed down.” Important clarification, considering how many girls I encounter every day who just seem to do NOTHING but back down. They relish it! Classic girls, am I right? Weak fools.

And instead of writing...actually, you know what, I don’t even know. This line is so completely useless from a characterization standpoint, or any standpoint of any kind, that I have actually no idea what the author was going for. I’ll just type it here and see if you have any guesses: “I enjoyed applying makeup as any girl my age would, only I did so with a lighter hand.” So...not only some fun generalizations about girls, but also some makeup-shaming? Ah, we have fun.

But let’s not deprive ourselves of discussing everyone’s favorite insufferable brat.


2) THE MAIN CHARACTER IS TERRIBLE

Something that tends to be true about every book is that you spend a lot of time with the main character. Sometimes this is pleasant; sometimes it is whatever; sometimes it is less than ideal. Rarely is it a continual, never-ending process of irritation and profound suffering.

That last scenario is what we get here, with our dear Audrey Rose. (And first off, I have to say: I know that Audrey is like an ancient name and everything, but “Audrey Rose” reads much more like “John Green character” than “nineteenth-century girl of title.”)

Here’s my Audrey Rose impression: “I am powerful and fearless!! Everyone underestimates me!!! I am not like other girls who cannot even use a knife at a tea party!!! Oh, what’s that? A mildly scary or gruesome thing? *faints immediately*”

I would estimate that 57% of that is directly from the text.

Also, we are reading about pretty touchy stuff here. These are real-life murder victims, real women who were often just minding their business and living their lives best they could when they were brutally attacked in their own neighborhoods. This is sad even almost 150 years later, and our protagonist is reacting in real time. So she should be stricken.

Should be.

Instead, this girl will be like “This is the saddest thing that has ever happened!! We should pay undying respect!!” on one page, and then be crackin’ jokes and comparing her dumbass problems (I have a curfew! My brother doesn’t get me!) to those of brutal murder victims on the next. We stan consistency and compassion.

She has zero common sense, very little personality outside of the comparisons to other girls, and a whole lot of entitlement. She jumps right into situations she knows nothing about and screws everything up, always, all the time. Everything she does on this case is sheer luck between moments of making dizzying eye contact with the hot guy she works with.

Speaking of which.


3) HOW IS THE ROMANCE SO TERRIBLE?

I don’t have much to say beyond that category title, really. How is this so bad? There is no chemistry. There is no slow burn, or rooting for the characters, or any real hate-to-love outside of some surface-level attempts at cashing in on America’s favorite trope. The characters spend the whole time being separately insufferable and at occasional moments coming together to combine their insufferableness into one insufferable mountain of insufferability.

The number one reason I don’t think I can continue with this series is my awareness that I will be expected to root for these two buffoons to mash their faces together.


4) THE OTHER BUFFOON

I also -- and it brings me no joy to say this -- cannot stand Thomas.

I don’t think he’s quirky, or smart, or funny. I find him neither lovable nor charming nor interesting. He does not live up to the descriptors “swoon-worthy” or “book boyfriend material.” He is an inconsistently characterized mishmash of every fictional crush cliché from whatever Cole Sprouse is on Riverdale to Will Herondale, and it DOESN’T. WORK.

He’s annoying and omnipresent and condescending and mean and nonsensical. I don’t get why Audrey Rose likes him, and I especially don’t understand why he likes her.

Everything about this book feels like an evil factory took every piece of content that’s Popular With The Teens and blended it into this unholy smoothie of suffering and unoriginality.


5) IT’S GREAT WHEN HISTORICAL FICTION IS HISTORICALLY INACCURATE, AND WHEN BOOKS WITH SCIENCE GET THE SCIENCE WRONG

The author has a big note at the end of the book explaining all the various ways she f*cked up history while writing this book. Which is very fun, I think, when writing historical fiction. Why stay faithful in any way to history? It’s just historical, after all!

That author’s note mostly, if not entirely, had to do with the ways she messed with the Jack the Ripper case itself. Kind of insane, considering that’s what this entire book centers around, but whatever. It’s not my biggest qualm.

That would be the fact that while reading this, I, a person who has not taken a history class in three or so years, would occasionally think “Hm! That doesn’t sound right!” and Google. Or sometimes I, a person who has hated science for her entire life, would think, “Huh! Not sure if that’s scientifically accurate!” and do some light research.

And it would turn out the person who wrote this book, who ostensibly did extensive studying on the late nineteenth century, and at least a little on science and anatomy, considering her protagonist was into both...would have made what we call an oopsie.

Here are a few of the things I just happened to Google that were in some way misrepresented in the book. Extra details included if I remember them.
- photography (the technology just wasn’t at the level it’s presented as, and this is one I’m confident about, considering I was in a history of photography class at the time I was reading this)
- exposure immunity as a concept
- cross contamination as a concept
- popularity of the Petri dish (it existed but was not in common use)
- contagiousness of leprosy scabs late in the illness (leprosy isn’t really contagious like that)
- transplants (the first successful one was in 1954, nearly 70 years after the events of this book)
- popularity of cigarettes (use wasn’t widespread in the West until the 20th century)
- the concept of medication for mental illness (the idea that someone would think, in the 19th century, that someone’s “salvation” from his mental illness would “come in the form of tonics working on his physiology” is just absurd. Even if it’s coming from our protagonist, who we’re supposed to believe without evidence is brilliant)

This book is so careless that it’s impossible for me to care about it.


6) VERY, VERY, VERY POORLY WRITTEN

This is not very well-written. Which is fine, in some ways -- it’s a debut, after all. However, there’s something about trying to write in an old-timey style that just ties some authors up in knots.

Let’s explore some of those knots.

“Consequences come with a high cost, some more than others.” Uh...consequences ARE that high cost. You’re talking about the consequences...of consequences.

“If only there were a way to cure life’s most fatal disease [...] Death.” So, in other words: If only there were a way to cure life’s most death-causing disease: Death. OBVIOUSLY DEATH IS FATAL. IT’S DEATH.

“Jack was coming undone, it seemed.” Huh. Really? You mean that guy who’s been murdering women and cutting their organs out? That dude? He always seemed pretty mentally sound to me.

Also, at one point, a character says “Uh-huh.” You know. The way rich British people in the late nineteenth century famously talked.


7) BAD PLOT. VERY BAD

Like a middling episode of a value-brand version of CSI, we spend this whole book following our intrepid cast as they think they’ve cracked the case, and are wrong. And then wait no actually now they’ve got it! Oh wait scratch that, they’re wrong. And then third time’s the charm we got this you guys we got him!!! We know it! And then they’re wrong.

And then the actual answer falls into their laps through no real sleuthing or skill of their own, and it was the ending you knew it’d be for a long, long time.

What plotline could be more satisfying than that?


Bottom line: This book was brutal. And not in the fun, old-timey murder way I expected.

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pre-review
my hobbies include: having unpopular opinions; suffering

review to come

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currently-reading updates

SPOOKY SEASON

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should I actually prioritize my schoolwork and other responsibilities, or should I push all of that off and ignore it so I can read this book during Halloween-month? sound off in the comments below

(spoiler alert: I'm irresponsible)
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Reading Progress

December 30, 2017 – Shelved
October 29, 2018 – Started Reading
October 30, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 104 (104 new)


message 1: by Faith (new) - added it

Faith (BookSelf ~ You Are What You Read) Maybe prioritize school but reward yourself with designated book time?


Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his) When I have a lot of stuff to do with school, I split tasks up. So I do a bit of work for one class, then do some fun reading, then a bit more school stuff, then book, etc. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.


Julie I mean schoolwork is important, but I really love this book so I'm biased.


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) option c: both. try the pomodoro method.


Sonja Do it! Do it! Do it!!


BookLionQueen I mean you can read for 10 minutes work for 25 that's the method that I use.


message 7: by Kevin Malone (new)

Kevin Malone Definitely the latter


message 8: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Kevin Malone wrote: "Definitely the latter"

hell yeah


message 9: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma i actually don't have that much to do this week responsibility-wise so i should be good but i love you all and thank you


Natalie Ugh, I didn’t like this one either! I had such high hopes and this book just didn’t deliver. I’m excited to see your review.


message 11: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Natalie wrote: "Ugh, I didn’t like this one either! I had such high hopes and this book just didn’t deliver. I’m excited to see your review."

i liked the concept sm and look what came of it!!!


Regina Man I hate this book so much


Regina Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like it


Riza Marise日撒 i knew you'd hate it 😂


message 15: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma This looks so interesting but I tried to read it and couldn’t get past the first few pages. I’m interested to see you thoughts on it.


message 16: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Regina wrote: "Man I hate this book so much"

Regina wrote: "Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like it"

a no good very bad book


message 17: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Rizas wrote: "i knew you'd hate it 😂"

thrilled to hear this reaction is on brand


message 18: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Emma wrote: "This looks so interesting but I tried to read it and couldn’t get past the first few pages. I’m interested to see you thoughts on it."

good call on stopping after a few pages tbh


message 19: by One (new) - added it

One Code 431 This book is so over hyped i am in doubt if i should pick it up or not..... Expectance / reality


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) I gave the book four stars(or 3, I don't remember), but I look forward to your review—I'm aware of the fact that the book has quite a few flaws.

(I was able to ignore them till the 3rd book, at which point I cracked.)


cyborgcinderella This book is SO mediocre and BEYOND overhyped.


message 22: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma One wrote: "This book is so over hyped i am in doubt if i should pick it up or not..... Expectance / reality"

the hype truly did me in


message 23: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Ad Rocks Socks wrote: "I gave the book four stars(or 3, I don't remember), but I look forward to your review—I'm aware of the fact that the book has quite a few flaws.

(I was able to ignore them till the 3rd book, at w..."


oof i wanted to like this and was thinking about pressing on with the series but if the others are just as bad.......idk idk


message 24: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma cyborgcinderella wrote: "This book is SO mediocre and BEYOND overhyped."

i have never, in my life, agreed with a statement more


Gabrielle Completely agree. I already figured out the plot twist within the first few cheater and I didn't feel connected to the characters at all


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) Time to be honest: plotwise, the second book is marginally better than the first. I was/am in it for the character development. But Audrey runs hot and cold (apparently PTSD) in the 2nd one and that got real old real fast. But otherwise things were good? And then the 3rd book un-did any development that the 2nd one did. 😾


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) TL;DR: if you aren't invested in the characters, don't bother reading the 2nd and 3rd (and 4th) books, go read something you'll like! 😅


message 28: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Gabrielle wrote: "Completely agree. I already figured out the plot twist within the first few cheater and I didn't feel connected to the characters at all"

i lament the "twist" and the characters above all


message 29: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Ad Rocks Socks wrote: "Time to be honest: plotwise, the second book is marginally better than the first. I was/am in it for the character development. But Audrey runs hot and cold (apparently PTSD) in the 2nd one and tha..."

Ad Rocks Socks wrote: "TL;DR: if you aren't invested in the characters, don't bother reading the 2nd and 3rd (and 4th) books, go read something you'll like! 😅"

oooh thank you for this info...i'll really have to consider. honestly i just thought houdini sounded so cool :/


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) Houdini was only there in name — i fell for the title and cover only to be cruelly let down. 🙄 the plot is at its weakest and spoiler, there's a popular teenage trope: (view spoiler). so much of the book didn't make sense, and the murderer was easier to spot than playing peek-a-boo with a kid.


Ad Rocks Socks (semi hiatus) ummm, my spoiler tags got removed. o.O sorry!


Tucker WHAT!!!!!?? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! :'(
This is sad. So many people hate thiss book :(


message 33: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Ad Rocks Socks wrote: "Houdini was only there in name — i fell for the title and cover only to be cruelly let down. 🙄 the plot is at its weakest and spoiler, there's a popular teenage trope: [spoilers removed]. so much o..."

Ad Rocks Socks wrote: "ummm, my spoiler tags got removed. o.O sorry!"

NOOOO! what's in the spoiler does it for me. maybe i'll pick up the next one (yay dracula) but i am NOT into the idea of houdini any longer


message 34: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Tucker wrote: "WHAT!!!!!?? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! :'(
This is sad. So many people hate thiss book :("


i don't know if i'd say "hate"...well actually maybe i'd say hate


Sophie Janet yeah, same


Tucker emma wrote: "Tucker wrote: "WHAT!!!!!?? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! :'(
This is sad. So many people hate thiss book :("

i don't know if i'd say "hate"...well actually maybe i'd say hate"


😢😧😥😨😳😵😰😱


message 37: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Sophie Janet wrote: "yeah, same"

excellent. suffering is better when you do it with a friend


Tucker Alas, my favorite book has failed you 😢


message 39: by Faith (new) - added it

Faith (BookSelf ~ You Are What You Read) I'm hyped for the rant review that's sure to come


message 40: by cait (new) - rated it 2 stars

cait (decafandpaperbacks) This review is EVERYTHING 🙌🏼 love how the killer was supposed to be a surprise when she would describe every single character with some sort of menace or dark description except for the one who actually did it :-) WHAT??? The One We Think is So Pure Is Actually The Bad Guy? I laughed when the reveal happened and then promptly got angry and melted.


message 41: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth Ugh, I cannot with this book! I couldn't get past 30% and had already guessed the killer and was ready to smash out Audrey Rose's teeth, so annoying. this review is 10/10, everything


message 42: by Maro (new)

Maro the problem is, they don't modify history for the sake of a plot, theymodify out of sheer laziness and unwillingness to do research


madandelion ~hiatus (✿^‿^)~ Bwahaha sometimes your book trashing reviews make me want to read that said book even more, just to see what atrocities it committed. Lovely review, as always. ;)


message 44: by Clare (new) - rated it 1 star

Clare Snow omg i'm not the only one! and looking thru the comments, we are THE roaming brothel gang (yes i'll explain that momentarily) How did i miss your highly responsible review Emma?

The language and behaviour that didn't belong in the Victorian era shitted me every which way. It didn't help that I read Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners right before Stalking. Unmentionable is the most horribly hilarious non-fiction ever written:
"If you are unmarried, you may not walk unescorted with other unmarried girls, as you will be perceived as a sort of roaming brothel gang."

The actual horrors of the Victorian era were fresh in my mind. Audrey Rose out adventuring by herself: one-woman-roaming-brothel-gang. Unmarried woman spending time with unmarried man? Only happens in the morning room with tea and a looming chaperone eg. old spinster aunt. Carving of cadavers is not allowed in the morning room. But I'd love to read the book where said chaperone encourages postmortems and acts as autopsy assistant (in the cellar obviously) 😉

If this was steam punk, I'd be all over that. Fan-fic incoming.

If anyone wants to read a feminist non-fiction book about the lives of the women killed - The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper is sympathetic to their onerous lives and the obstacles they overcome to live a life cut short by a monster. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate and Mary Jane were so much more than a list of victims.


message 45: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (Daydreamingofbookdragons) You've just gotta love the dialogue that tries to sound clever and/or pretentious and just sounds dumb. Great review!!


Ysera YES and more YES to this review.


message 47: by Faith (new) - added it

Faith (BookSelf ~ You Are What You Read) This rant was everything I'd hoped it would be


message 48: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Saif THIS REVIEW IS BRILLIANT OMGASDFGHJKL


message 49: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Tucker wrote: "Alas, my favorite book has failed you 😢"

our friendship can survive this i believe in us


message 50: by emma (new) - rated it 1 star

emma Faith wrote: "I'm hyped for the rant review that's sure to come"

it is risen


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