Review First Published 11/01/2012
Okay, my first review and, appropriately, the first book I read in 2012.
The novel is set in the present day and follows a Louisiana teenager by the name of Aurora “Rory” Duveaux who is given the chance to attend a school in the Whitechapel district of London whilst her university lecturer parents are teaching in Bristol.
Whilst contending with the usual aspects of school life such as the unpopular Head Girl, the wacky room-mate, not being able to play hockey and the attraction to one of the prefects, Rory has an unexpected problem to contend with. London is in the grip of a “Jack The Ripper” copycat killer and, following the discovery of a body at the school, Rory is the only witness to a potential “Ripper” suspect.
I usually take my cue as to how good a novel is by how quickly I read it and, in spite of things like work and “real life”, I managed to read it in the space of five days which is pretty good going for me.
Without spoiling it for you, dear reader, this was a cracking novel to start my year off with.
Maureen Johnson’s written this book in the first person from Rory’s point of view and whilst I found it difficult to maintain interested in the case of Susan Hill’s “The Woman In Black”, I found the fact that Rory speaks like a contemporary young adult easy to follow and a good guide to how she feels about the Wexford school that she attends, her friendships and the whole “Ripper” investigation.
The main characters that Rory interacts with are believable… well, believable in the context of a novel such as this (again, don’t want to spoil)… There’s the “Jolly Hockey Sticks” House Mistress (quite literally), the Head Girl who thinks that she’s “The Law”, the unexpected room-mate in the character of Boo and my two favourite characters – the best friend, Jazza, who is excitable and quirky, and the romantic interest in Jerome who, although he’s one of the Prefects, isn’t beyond a bit of rule breaking to ensure that he gets to know Rory better.
Alongside the main supporting characters above are additional ones who enter the story as the “Ripper” investigation progresses… Again, I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the book if you’ve not already read it.
Another great couple of the touches to the books are the research that Johnson has done to ground it in reality, such as the red and white of the BBC News logo and the way that police officers are dressed in the UK, and the fact that she touches upon the current culture of the obsession in celebrity or, in the case of the “Ripper” copycat, notoriety.
The are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested in the novel and a nice little cliffhanger that made me go “Nooooooooooooo” because I enjoyed the book so much.
Further information about Maureen Johnson’s books can be found at her website www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com