Published by Head of Zeus (1st October 2020)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Head of Zeus, and the author via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 2.75
The year is 1888, and Susannah Chapman is toiling away to become a full fledged nurse when she meets Thomas, a wealthy surgeon who has eyes just for her. After marrying rather quickly, and experience a wonderful honeymoon. The couple return home to begin their life together in Chelsea. Susannah soon notices Thomas start to change. He’s not as attentive as he was before, his moods have turned sour and more often than not, she finds herself his target. When he begins staying out late at night and not disclosing where it is he is disappearing to, Susannah starts to have suspicions. When prostitutes begin showing up dead and mutilated, she takes a heavy interest in following the case through the newspapers. Then she realises, each murder is happening on a night that Thomas is not at home, he comes home with strange wounds or his clothes covered in blood…could her new husband be the one they call Jack the Ripper? Will she find out before it’s too late to save her own life?
When I saw this book advertised for request in an email, I was SO excited. I have a fascination with Jack the Ripper, as I’m sure millions of others do. Something about the fact that they never caught or convicted anyone for the brutal murders they committed just makes for an interesting subject. And the amount of theories surrounding it all, any one of them could be true! So the fact that this book was based around the Jack the Ripper murders had me from word go, and when I saw that I had been accepted to receive an ARC? I just about jumped over the moon.
The story begins with a funeral, this is where we first meet Susannah, a 27 year old woman who is burying her last remaining family – her Grandmother. She then moves on to London to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. The story is written in present but does jump back and forth a little bit as we are told information through memories in a way. I found the beginning third of the book to be a bit slow going, the pacing just wasn’t working that well for me, but I understand that the story and characters needed to be set up. The problem was, the pacing didn’t get better. Nearly the entire book was rather slow and tedious at times. I was hoping for the murders to be more of a front runner in the story line, but it was more of a secondary thing that was happening that helped drive Susannah’s story along. So this disappointed me a little bit.
However, the last 20% of the book was absolutely amazing. I wish the entire book had been like this, though I get that it had to build to a climax, the building was just taking way too long in my opinion. I think my problem was that I was so focused on the fact that this book included a Jack the Ripper story in it, and I didn’t really want to hear about anything else. The narration was done extremely well and at times I found Susannah to be quite unreliable so I wasn’t sure whether was she was recounted actually WAS happening. So that was fantastic.
The characters were very well written though I didn’t overly care about them that much. I cared about Susannah in that last 20% of the story because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to her, so I guess I cared about one of them in the end, but before this I just didn’t really care. I was waiting for something to happen and it just took so long to get there.
I do love what Whitfield did with the Ripper story, and I loved the little twist that was added in towards the end, that was absolutely masterful. Whitfield shows that she is incredibly good with her craft, her ability to write a historical fiction and have it feel like you’re actually walking down those cobblestone streets of Whitechapel, the smells, the dialect. It really does show how good a write Whitfield is, to be able to pick you up and drop you in the middle of it all is just wonderful, it really helps round out the story.
All in all, this was an interesting story, though I felt like I was reading more about the domestic struggles of a woman in 1888 than the Jack the Ripper case, though I do believe that was in part my own fault for assuming that the Ripper murders would be at the forefront of the story. If you like a well written, true to form historical fiction, don’t go past this one as you may enjoy it. Though to be warned, there is some gory scenes where the ripper murders are spoken about in some detail.
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