I have a confession to make: I’m 22 years old and I still, occasionally, buy books from the Teen Section of my local bookstore. There’s been little to catch my interest these days, what with the popularity of Twilight bringing about hordes of knock-offs. However, I do come across a rare treat once in a while. And I’m always a sucker for a story that includes London’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
Ripper is Amy Carol Reeves debut novel. It’s about Arabella Sharp, a young woman who comes to live with her grandmother in Kensington after the death of her mother. She starts volunteering at Whitechapel Hospital out of a need to do something, and finds that she has a passion for helping the sickly and abused women there. However, her patients begin to turn up dead at the hands of Jack the Ripper and Abbie discovers that she has a strange connection to him: She has visions of the Ripper luring in his victims only moments before they die. Her desperation to stop the murders lead her on a perilous hunt to catch the killer and a secret that could threaten more than just London.
I like Abbie as a character. She’s strong-willed, intelligent and willing to get her hands dirty. She has a desire to better herself and find a purpose in life. In fact, the reason she starts volunteering at Whitechapel Hospital is very simple: She’s bored with her posh London lifestyle. She sees volunteering as an opportunity to do something and it eventually has her considering becoming a physician in a time when women were barely starting to get into the field. She knows who her friends are and will defend them to the death and knows where her loyalties lie. She also has her insecurities, her regrets and an attitude that gets her in trouble on more than one occasion. Her relationship with her mother is very mysterious and a constant part in her life that leaves her questioning who she is and what she’s supposed to do. There’s plenty more we can learn about Abbie, but she’s off to a strong start as a character.
One thing that concerned me as I read was that Reeves had set Abbie up to be caught in a love triangle – a staple of teen fiction that I’ve come to dislike. I was pleasantly surprised at the way it was handled. Both of the men involved – Simon and William – were interesting and could appeal to Abbie in different ways. But unlike in other situations where the heroine “can’t possibly choose,” Abbie was not one to string either man along. She was very much aware that she didn’t know one enough to pursue a relationship and only thought of him in friendly terms and told him that. She does start a relationship with one of them, it doesn’t overrun the main plot, and I appreciated how it came together.
There are some negative sides to the book. Sometimes I felt things went too fast, with more telling than showing. As the book revolves heavily around the Ripper murders, there was a lot of jumping ahead where we’re simply told what happened and things that Abbie observed during that time. For the most part Reeves is able to work through these time jumps fairly well, such as when Abbie is injured chasing the Ripper and ends up bed ridden during the month where no murders occurred. It’s good that Reeves doesn’t want to bore her audience when there’s nothing happening during that time to advance the plot, but I felt it could use some improvement. It’s especially true when she’s telling us about what the other characters are like when it would be better to show us.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. Reeve left many questions unanswered about Abbie and her past; questions any reader would want answers to. There’s certainly room for a sequel here. I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing Miss Abbie Sharp again.