Crooked Lane Books | December 2017 | 384 pgs
Source: Library

1888, Whitechapel, London. Sarah Bain, our main protagonist, is a photographer who earns her living by taking illicit boudoir photographs of the town's local ladies of the night. A spinster and a past filled with unhappiness and doubts surrounding her father's disappearance, she often wonders if her father is still alive or dead in a riot when she was only ten. Through her work, she befriended a few women despite their lowly background and their profession so when news of her two models were found brutally murdered within weeks of one another, she begins to suspect it is more of a murderer's act than mere coincidence. Most of all, she feels she is somehow responsible for their death considering that the pictures she took might have fallen into the hands of the murderer, thereby given him some faces to strike. 

Through different circumstances, Sarah befriended a few people from all walks of life (a street urchin, a gay aristocrat, a Jewish butcher and his wife, and a beautiful young actress) and they formed a team to investigate the women's death and to find out the identity of the Ripper. Alongside the investigation, Sarah finds herself attracted to police constable Barrett yet she doesn't know if she could trust him or not. Since young, Sarah had an unforgettable experience involving the police when they barged into their house for the arrest of her father and it had impacted her ever since. 

Despite the team's determination to catch the Ripper, their efforts get them nowhere but danger instead as Sarah soon finds her teammates getting hurt the more they are digging into it. Sarah decided it is best to act on her own as she crosses Whitechapel's dark alleys to find the truth and discover a few things which don't match her findings. 

To begin with, I liked the idea of this new take of Jack the Ripper. In fact this is the main reason I picked up this Victorian mystery and all the more that it features a female sleuth. However, these are the only two things that I liked about this book as for the rest it failed to captivate me. While the plot was intriguing, it was repetitive at times. Sarah was an interesting character and although I liked her determination, I felt most of the scenes are focused on her interactions with her teammates and although there is nothing wrong with this, I found the pace to be somewhat slow and at times boring, which isn't a good thing considering this is a mystery. All in all it was a fresh take of the Ripper but I wished the execution was better. This is the first book of Laura Joh Rowland's Victorian mystery and her second book, A Mortal Likeness, is already released in January 2018. 

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10 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    How do you make Jack the Ripper boring? That’s too bad.

  2. Melody Says:

    Jenny - It'd have been a perfect read if there's more intensity and more focus on the Ripper. Oh well.

  3. I am sorry this wasn't better. I have a copy of the second book, but not this one. Hopefully it is better.

  4. Lark Says:

    I just checked this one out of the library; despite its flaws I think I'm still going to give it a read 'cause I love mysteries that involve Jack the Ripper. I'll let you know if I make it through, or if the slow pace makes me DNF it. :)

  5. Melody Says:

    Wendy - I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on the second book, Wendy.

  6. Melody Says:

    Lark - I'll be curious of your take of this book and I hope you'll enjoy it more than I did, Lark. :)

  7. jenclair Says:

    This is one I didn't finish. Can't remember exactly why because I thought it sounded great, but for some reason I was not engaged.

  8. Iliana Says:

    I did like this one but was quite disappointed with the second one in the series. It seemed like the writer made the characters a bit too "modern". Laura Joh Rowland has another series that's really interesting so I would recommend checking that one out.

  9. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - Yes, I thought it has a great premise and like you, I wasn't engaged.

  10. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I'm not sure if I want to read the second book. We shall see.

    I share the same sentiments. I thought the tone was pretty modern, too.

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