By: Amy Morrison
Jack the Ripper and his Autumn of Terror in 1888 is arguably one of the most infamous cold cases in the world. Forensic scientists, police, and regular citizens have been fascinated by the case for generations and while many people claim to have solved the case with modern methodology, the anonymity of Jack the Ripper will continue to enthrall people. With the fame of the case, many individuals have written books and produced movies based on the case and killer, many taking creative liberties to make the story more intriguing or give it a more satisfying ending. One such author is Kerri Maniscalco who used Jack the Ripper’s Autumn of Terror as the basis for her historical fiction novel Stalking Jack the Ripper.
The book is written in first person point of view and narrated by 17 year old Audrey Rose Wadsworth. The story follows Audrey Rose on her journey as a forensic assistant for her uncle, one of the coroners consulted during the Ripper murders and her personal fight against the society that expects her to be nothing more than a wife. As a woman in a scientific field in the 1800s, Audrey Rose is met mostly with skepticism and disagreement when it comes to her chosen field, especially from her father and aunt. Consistently throughout the book, Audrey Rose has to fight against society’s views of women as well as her own family who want her to be a “proper lady”. The reader experiences Audrey Rose’s struggle against society and her journey in finding the balance between femininity and being a scientist.
Through the chaos that Jack the Ripper brings, the story firmly focuses on Audrey Rose. She must face many ethical and moral problems throughout the book and the reader never sees her, nor any of the other characters, as two dimensional. All characters in the book are incredibly fleshed out and suffer with their own inner beasts, with Audrey Rose being no exception. With each murder, Audrey Rose is faced with more and more questions about the identity of Jack the Ripper as well as what she must do and sacrifice in order to catch him. Every step of the way, the way society wants her to act casts doubt on her abilities and on her own mind. Before being able to catch the killer, Audrey Rose must be able to face her own inner demons.
The author utilizes Audrey Rose, making it a statement about the human morals deciding what is right and wrong. The story is truly about self-actualization and being true to oneself in spite of other people’s view. Every decision Audrey Rose must make holds increasingly more weight and affects the outcome of the case as well as Audrey Rose herself. In Audrey Rose, the reader finds an unbelievably modern and relatable character whom they can look up to as a person who does what they feel called to do while still being undeniably themselves.
Audrey Rose’s conviction to solve the case also bleeds into the reader’s wants as well. As the questions about the case continue to pile, the reader becomes more and more captivated by what the answer could be and how all loose ends may be tied up. These questions lead the reader by constantly keeping them enthralled and wanting to read more. Maniscalco does an amazing job of tying up major story points in satisfying ways while also keeping the readers invested to a point that they do not even realize that the book is over until they reach the last page. Who is Jack the Ripper? Kerri Maniscalco answers this centuries old question with a whole answer of her own.