Book Review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

11788444Title: Ripper
Author: Amy Carol Reeves
Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Supernatural Thriller, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: April 8th 2012
Rating: 5 stars
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

A paranormal mystery involving London’s most notorious killer

In 1888, following her mother’s sudden death, seventeen-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother’s request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there.

But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Even more horrifying, Abbie starts having strange visions that lead her straight to the Ripper’s next massacres. As her apparent psychic connection with the twisted killer grows stronger, Abbie is drawn into a deadly mystery involving the murders, her mother’s shadowed past, and a secret brotherhood of immortals—who’ll stop at nothing to lure Abbie into its “humanitarian” aims.

It seldom happens that a book enthralls me in such a way as Ripper did. The story sucked me in from page one and kept me up until the wee hours of the night, wanting to learn more about the characters and to solve the mystery of the Ripper threatening London and especially Whitechapel Hospital and district. Ripper is Amy Carol Reeves’ debut novel, but by the way she seamlessly adds words together into sentences that seem to flow right off the pages, you wouldn’t think so. This novel is really a startling debut and all fans of the original Jack The Ripper story, paranormal mysteries in general, or just Victorian England should take up this book and read it.

The setting is extraordinary. The way Amy Carol Reeves portrays historical England in the nineteenth century is amazing. She makes the streets, the hospital, the houses over in Kensington, the carriages and the entire vibe of Victorian England come to life on these very page. I felt like I had stepped straight into a Sweeney Todd musical. Not only does the author describe the setting wonderfully, she also gives us vibrant, mysterious characters who seem to crawl right out of the pages. The main protagonist, Arabella Sharp, nicknamed Abbie, is a lady born too early for her era, a tad bit rebellious, a tad bit too smart and opinionated. Although in most cases these traits in a lady would be totally unbelievable – I have seen some horribly bad-executed examples in previous books set in this era that I’ve read – but luckily this is definitely not the case in Ripper. With her upbringing in Dublin, joining street fights and learning plenty of skills from her mother, it’s no wonder that Abbie has difficulty settling for the dull, mundane life led by the respectable ladies over at Kensington. But Abbie isn’t the only character who shines right off these pages. But more about those later.

The story starts with Abbie Sharp chasing down a pickpocket down the street and having a startling and mind-dazzling vision the moment she reaches the pickpocket. Although wary of what just happens, Abbie shrugs it off thinking she must have been hallucinating. The next day, her Grandmother reports to her that she has been offered a position as a nurse at Whitechapel Hospital by the most respectable Dr. Julian Bartlett. Although her Grandmother, Lady Westfield, isn’t convinced that this is a proper job for a young lady, she does agree because Dr. Bartlett has been a friend of the family for a long time. As Abbie begins working at Whitechapel Hospital, she actually begins to enjoy the job – anything is better than staying at home for yet another tea party, that’s a giving, but still, her particular fondness for the physician’s job is also noted by Dr. Bartlett and several other physicians. One of these other physicians is Simon, son of a wealthy family who lives in Kensington as well, and clearly a potential love interest for Abbie Sharp. The other potential love interest comes in the form of a more stubborn and more mysterious young man who goes by the name of William, and who is a relative of the notorious Ronsetti family, definitily not someone Abbie’s Grandmother would approve of.

As Abbie’s work in the Hospital continues, so do the murders. They are so gruesome and horrifying that they are soon dubbed the Ripper murders, based on the infamous Jack the Ripper case. Although the murderer targets prostitutes as well, he is especially inclined towards those who have been recently released from Whitechapel Hospital, making all the physicians there possible subjects, especially since the Ripper uses a surgical blade and performs procedures only a physician or butcher could do. But that’s not the end of it. Everytime the Ripper is about to commit a murder, Abbie gets a vision of it. Desperate to know the connection between the Ripper, her own visions and the Whitechapel Hospital she has grown to love, Abbie, Simon and William go on a search for the truth. A search that might very well cost them their lives.

Abbie Sharp is the protagonist of this story, and she makes an interesting one at that. She has a very complex personality. She’s one of those people who gives and takes back constantly. She is generous, kind and not afraid to work hard, but on the other hand she often appears as being cold and distant as well. The perfect kind of person for a physician’s job really – someone who can distance themselves from the terrible things happening around them. When she interacts with Simon and William she is like that as well: she gives information about herself, but immediately closes up afterwards. She is curious and wants to know all about them, but gives little in return. Additionally, she’s also very intelligent and clever enough to solve a mystery of this size, if only she puts her mind to it. On the other hand, she isn’t that good at rating and understanding people, especially when we deal with the more complex emotions of love, friendship and the borders between that. The only aspect of Abbie’s personality that made me cringe all throughout this novel is the fact that she gets over things too quickly. Oh hey, I have visions. Alright, I’m over. Oh hey, those visions show me the Ripper murders! Well, I’m over it. Oh look, people important to me die. I feel a pang of guilt…But oh wait, I’m over it already! You can imagine how that doesn’t make sense at all.

We have a love triangle in this book, or well at least partially, since one of the possible love affairs is only one-sided. Simon is the ‘appropriate’ choice for Abbie to make, because he’s someone her Grandmother would approve of. Additionally he’s also a nice, kind-hearted guy, who doesn’t have to work long hours and shifts at the Hospital but does so because he genuinely cares about the wellbeing of his patients. In fact, I probably fell in love with him from page one. It doesn’t happen often that you find this type of person: the person who is willing to put everything, including his own life, aside to help take care of others. Virtually, Simon is a saint. Unfortunately, saints are hardly as attractive as saint-like bad boy versions, which is where William comes in the picture. Although William is a devoted physician as well, he isn’t as eager to trust people as Simon is, nor is he as kind-hearted. He uses his wit and sarcasm to sometimes make a fool out of Abbie, to mock her and sometimes to tease her – and it’s working. It’s not surprising though, because if I were Abbie, I would have taken the bait a long time ago. William’s behavior, the so-called not-caring is exactly what draws Abbie to him in the first place. Typical yes, but that’s usually what happens in real life as well. You want what you can’t have. Why choose the easy path when the difficult one could be so much more fun? Of all the possible love interests I’ve read about during the last year or so, William is one of my favorites. He’s the kind of guy I could see myself dating. Also, the love triangle here isn’t as stereotypical as in most YA novels: good boy, bad boy. Both Simon and William are definitely the good guys – they’re saints actually, in my opinion – but William is the most bad boy like of the both of them. They’re just two very different people who both work hard for the good cause.

Next up, the mystery at hand. It kept me guessing for a while, but around halfway through the novel, the reader figures out who the Ripper actually is because he shows himself to Abbie. You would think that’s a bad move on the author’s behalf, but it isn’t. Because the mystery still isn’t solved. Sure, we now know who the Ripper is, but we still don’t know why he kills those women. And what’s up with the crawling on walls? The visions? There are still a ton of questions left to solve, and we only find answers to those in the last few chapters. Also, the Ripper…well, what can I say. He’s a complex character, that’s for sure. By the end of the book, we find him in a very strange relationship with his current number one prey, Abbie. It’s not unheard of, this kind of relationship between victim-killer (at least from the killer’s side), and if I have to admit, I find it beyond interesting, but it is weird for sure. See, it seems as if some part of him actually likes her. Not in a love-love sense, but more in the sense of “I want to rape you, or at least make you more than uncomfortable by ripping buttons of your dress” and something of the likes. It reminds me a bit of those relationships between a vampire and his victim in paranormal romance novels, and I can tell you, it’s hot. Weird, disgusting maybe considering he did kill a number of people whom Abbie loved, but hot. Of course these rather odd feelings are definitely not returned by Abbie, but that doesn’t matter. Think Buffy/Angel when Angel turned bad. Those were some of the most epic scenes in the history of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and the scenes between Abbie and the Ripper are some of the most epic scenes in this book as well.

I can’t possibly think of anything bad to say about this book apart from the fact that it ends on a major cliffhanger, and I want to read a book two. So please, Amy Carol Reeves, start writing book two and keep me sane. I need to know what happens next. In return, I will bake you a million cookies, do a weird monkey dance or even make a shrine dedicated to your books. Your choice. But please, write. Don’t eat, don’t sleep. Write. Write. WRITE!

Of course, I’m just joking, but this only proves how much I yearn for the second book in this series. Since you have probably realized by now that I’m slowly going insane anticipating the second book, let me recap why you should read Ripper. It’s truly an extraordinary book that keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one. The characters are intriguing, original and refreshing. The love triangle is totally believable and sheds off most of the clichés. The Ripper is one of the shining characters in this book, and he makes one of the most memorable murderers out there. The mix of paranormal and thriller make for an outstanding debut that I recommend to all fans of both genres. Trust me, you will have a killer time reading Ripper.

This book counts towards the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, the Debut Author Challenge, the TBR Reading Challenge and the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

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