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The Next Job I Do I Shall Clip The Lady’s Ears Off

Erin reviews Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, a book that sadly wasn't focused on Jack the Ripper as much as she would have liked.

The Next Job I Do I Shall Clip The Lady’s Ears Off

BOOK REPORT for Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Cover Story: Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Anachronistic
Bonus Factors: Saucy Jack, Teddy Roosevelt
Relationship Status: Listen, Book, It's Not Me, It's You

Cover Story: Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?

What up!!!  Now THIS is a book cover!  I love this cover so much that I'm thinking about making babies with it.  Awesome looking babies, with sharply defined features and without an abundance of annoying qualities!  This cover manages to convey the bloodthirsty personality of good ol' Jack and also has a dude in a sharp-looking suit running somewhere!  And no one's headless!

Were I browsing titles in the bookstore, I'd snap this one up in a hurry, based solely on the cover and the description.  (Then I'd be really disappointed, but we'll get to that.)  Well done, publishers!

The Deal:

15 year old orphan Carver Young has never known his parents, but he does know that he was delivered to the orphanage along with a note from his father.  But when the orphanage has to close, Carver, along with his friend Delia and his nemesis Finn, are forced out into the New York world.  Carver is adopted - of sorts - by Albert Hawking, a wizened and bitter detective who works at the New Pinkerton Detective Agency.  The New Pinkertons, a secret, underground section of the famed Pinkerton Agency, take Carver in and train him up to be a Detective.  But it isn't long before Carver starts to wonder about their interest in him . . . and his father.

As New York is swept with a wave of serial killings of well-off young women, the case heats up and Carver finds himself in the middle of the mystery.  Could his dad be the killer?  And could the killer actually be Jack the Ripper?

BFF Charm: Meh

Carver just never felt that authentic to me, I have to say.  He's obstensibly 15, and 15 at the turn of the 20th century, when that was basically an adult, and yet he acted and sounded more like a 12 year old kid.  I kept expecting him to skip off to the drug store to get a strawberry phosphate, you know?  (No lie; I would be doing that right now if there were any drug stores with counters near me.  Only I'd be getting an egg cream.  Mmm, egg creams.)

This book is very much a boy book, and a middle-grade boy book at that: there's not a lot of time wasted in trying to assign motives to characters or flesh them out in any way.  As a result, I never felt like I got to know Carver beyond some orphan kid whose dad may or may not be the world's most famous serial killer.  I just felt like there should be more, you know?

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Chalk this score up to that middle-grade feeling I just mentioned.  Delia, the intrepid and kickass reporter-in-training, is totally awesome and probably my favorite character in the book.  Unfortunately, she's not really in it that often - she just sort of pops up when Carver needs help with a clue.  If this book had been Carver and Delia trying to solve the case together, it'd have been a lot more fun  - the two have good chemistry- but unfortunately, Delia's sidelined for 3 quarters of the game.

Talky Talk: Anachronistic

This is my fault, y'all.  I just don't get steampunk, and it completely brings me out of the story when I read about these wildly inventive contraptions that could never actually exist in that time period!  It's so frustrating!  I guess the limit of my imagination ends exactly where steampunk begins, because instead of embracing the idea of all these neat gadgets, I get all snooty and say things like, "why don't we talk about the hand operated vibrators used on women against their consent in order to 'cure' their mental illnesses?"

But beyond the steampunk, I just didn't feel like Petrucha's narrative flowed very well.  The chapters are short (two, three pages, max) which is an acceptable writing device if you're bowling me over with the beauty of your words.  Otherwise it just feels piecy and strung out, and no me gusta.  Let's put it this way - I had no problem putting this book down and actually dreaded picking it back up again.

Bonus Factor: Saucy Jack

I was a junior Ripperologist from a very young age - my dad and I watched the BBC Jack the Ripper miniseries with Michael Caine and Armand Assante when I was 8.  For three nights, we'd pop popcorn, turn out all the lights, sit on the couch and watch the show, and I was fascinated. After that, my dad let me read some of the books he had about Jack the Ripper, and ever since, I've received at least one JtR book for Christmas from my dad.  So trust me when I say that I've read A LOT about Jack the Ripper.  All the theories, all the anthologies, all the weird-fiction-writer-decides-to-write-a-book-about-it-and-I'm-looking-at-you-Cornwell, all of it.  I LOVE Jack the Ripper, y'all.

So when I saw that this was a YA book about Jack?  Well I had to read it!  Sadly, it didn't really focus on Jack at all, which bummed me out.

Bonus Factor: Teddy Roosevelt

Oh hey, Teddy R, whose painting hangs in the Roosevelt Room at the White House!  How you doin'?  This book is set during Ted's reign as Police Commissioner in New York, and it was fun to read about our then-future President striding around living rooms and demanding that the New Pinkertons catch killers!  Even a young Alice Roosevelt appears in this book, and she is AWESOME.  Seriously.  Alice Roosevelt for President!  I mean, the woman coined my favorite quote ever: "If you can't find anything good to say about anybody, come sit here next to me."  Actually, I probably should have just made young Alice my bonus factor.

Casting Call:

Graham Phillips as Carver

Relationship Status: Listen, Book, It's Not Me, It's You

Book, you have a bizarrely high rating on Goodreads, and at first I wondered if it was me, if I was doing something wrong.  Because I just .  . . didn't like you.  Oh, sure, you showed promise, but it wasn't long into our date before I realized that you were dull, pedantic and going nowhere fast.  But then I realized - no!  It's not me?  How do I know that?  Because I'm awesome.  So that means it must be you.  No offense, book, but you're going to need to bring a lot more to the table if you're going to be writing about Jack the Ripper.  Something new, something inventive or, heck, just something that's going to resonate with me. But you didn't.  So Book, we're parting ways, but I want you to know . . . it wasn't me.  It was totally you.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Penguin.  I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!).  Ripper is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.