Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Ripper’s Shadow
A Victorian Adventure
Laura Joh Rowland

Crooked Lane Books
10 January 2017/ ISBN 9781683310051

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888 is the home of reclusive photographer Sarah Bain. She has earned some extra money by taking illegal “boudoir photographs” of some of the area’s prostitutes, but two of her subjects have been found brutally murdered. Sarah decides to take the law in her own hands like her political activist father, and starts to investigate as the bodies pile up, all women she has taken photographs of. For the first time in her life, she is not friendless, as her investigations have helped assemble an unlikely team of sleuths: a pair of Russian Jews, the gay son of a Duke, a street urchin and a beautiful music hall actress. Soon they are going to discover who the Ripper is, and then their problems will start in earnest…

I have long been a fan of this author’s Sano Ichiro series so was keen to delve into this one. It didn’t disappoint, as the reader is plunged into a well-described Whitechapel from the first page and the action does not let up. There have been a lot of novels written about Jack the Ripper and it is not easy to bring anything new or different to yet another one, but this novel manages better than most. Having a woman who is slightly outside society to investigate is part of the reason, together with a team of associates who are also outcasts in their own ways. In this retelling the police are set against them, thinking them guilty of being involved with the killings, and they have to elude them at every turn as well as investigating. Inspector Abberline is oddly absent from all this, and despite the obviously gory and gruesome nature of the crimes, there was not quite the overpowering sense of horror and fear that I felt was needed. This was something new to the people of 1888 and I didn’t feel that this came over enough. Minor gripe aside, this is also a novel about personal growth, and how Sarah and her companions start to overcome their personal problems as they become friends and work together. This is the book’s particular strength; the characters become better, stronger people and this sense of improvement lifts the book up from the common run of Ripper/serial killer novels and provides some essential light in a dark tale. I hope this is going to be the start of a series and, if it is, I will be wanting to read on. Recommended

Reviewers Note: Some gory parts

Reviewed 2017