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review 2020-02-03 14:16
Review: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)by Kerri Maniscalco
Escaping from Houdini - Kerri Maniscalco





Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly. But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It's up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer's horrifying finale?




My Thoughts



Another great book in the Jack the Ripper series, while I really enjoyed this book, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two book in the series. But I think that was because if the setting in this book. I’m not a huge carnival and or ship person fan. I did however greatly enjoy the writing and characters. Of course I still live for Wadsworth and Cresswell and just adore them together. I love how their relationship progresses and their overcome obstacles over obstacles. I love their banter and humor just as much as their sweet moments. While it was not my favorite setting I still liked the suspense and murder mystery we got, like in previous books it keeps us on the edge of the seat and guessing. Some things were pretty easy to foretell buy others came by surprise. I also should say that I enjoyed the audiobook a bit more than the actual books. It just adds a bit more to the story, I have not gotten the audio book for this book but most definitely will soon and listen to it again. I also still think that this series would make a great TV series and I would so be down for that. Overall I enjoyed the book, the writing and most of all the characters and I’m looking forward to the next book.

I rate it 4★







Available NOW 

Amazon*** B&N*** Kobo 

  Snoopydoo sigi

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review 2019-11-18 20:12
Jack the Ripper: Case Closed (Brandreth)
Jack the Ripper : Case Closed - Gyles Brandreth

I was under the impression that Brandreth's Wilde series had necessarily come to its end with the last, rather dark outing centred around his imprisonment in Reading Gaol and brief sojourn in Paris before his death. Imagine how pleased I was, then, to discover this new volume, however out of chronological sequence it may be. The story is set in 1894 (not in August-September 1888, the dates of the spree killings generally recognized to be Jack the Ripper's). The conceit is that the Ripper returns and commits at least one more murder. Brandreth's (or rather Wilde's) solution is colourful and takes us through the world of the circus, the sordid streets of London's red-light district, and a 19th-century madhouse. In a blog entry, Brandreth actually makes a claim that the solution Wilde enunciates is the correct one, and is based on new information from documents of a Brandreth forebear.


Amongst the real persons portrayed in this episode, alongside the reliable Arthur Conan Doyle, are writers Lewis Carroll and James Barrie (vignettes only), and Wilde's brother Willie and wife Constance. Hovering over all the proceedings, though only lightly suggested, is a threatening miasma of Wilde's impending doom, suggested by the continued presence of someone following him (presumably at Queensberry's behest).


Brandreth has also incorporated into this novel, as a character and a source of near-contemporary speculation about the Ripper, the policeman (later chief) Macnaghten, who was a neighbour of Wilde's and who wrote a famous report on the likely perpetrator. Wilde contemptuously dismisses Macnaghten's primary suspect, who by coincidence was contemporary of Wilde as a student, and who committed suicide suspiciously soon after the Ripper murders appeared to cease. Brandreth's fictional Wilde claims knowledge that this suspect was guilty of the lesser crime of having an affair with a boy.


Greatly enjoyed, as always.

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review 2019-08-10 15:49
Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) - Kerri Maniscalco
Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco

It looks like my quest for a good book continues.Stalking Jack the Ripper is just the latest in a line of bad books. I understand that this book was written for a Young Adult audience. However, this book is a prime example of why I avoid Young Adult books. Even when I was a Young Adult, I avoided Young Adult books. I went straight from the Babysitter Club books in the basement of the public library to Anne Rice upstairs. There was never an in-between stage for me. I'm not saying that there isn't good Young Adult literature out there. This just isn't an example of it.


First of all, I think the author could have easily avoided using the Jack the Ripper story line. She could have easily told her story as something separate from Jack the Ripper. If you read her author notes at the end, you'll find she more or less told her story separate from Jack the Ripper. The notes were full of things like "I know this happened like this but it didn't fit my story so I changed it" and "I didn't mention this person, even though they were kind of a big deal because it didn't fit my story". Then tell a different story. Plenty of books exist dealing with the mythology of Jack the Ripper without actually being about Jack the Ripper.


If she would have told this story with different characters it would have been even better. I will preface this by saying I finished Anne Perry's A Breach of Promise right before starting this book. One of my biggest problems with that book was the lecturing about feminism during Victorian England. I don't want to be preached at. I understand that women were poorly treated. I understand sexism still exists. I'm raising three girls. I get it. Anyway. I knew this book wasn't going to be about a Victorian teenage girl who falls into the expected societal roles. The blurb tells you she helps her uncle perform autopsies. That's fine. I have no issues with that. What I do have issue with is a character who has to constantly remind everyone around her (and the reader) that she's not just a stupid girl. However, at the same time, don't tell her she's not a lady. She may like dead bodies but she also really likes pretty things. She's complicated like that. More than solving the mystery of Jack the Ripper, our protagonist Audrey Rose, sets out to answer the question "Can I be taken seriously in the science world if I still wear make up and pretty dresses?" Again, I have zero issues with the feminism at work here. My problem is the way the author continues to hammer it home. I get it. She's unconventional. I get it. She's in a man's world and she has to prove herself. Tell me who Jack the Ripper is already.


The other main character, Thomas, was just as irritating as Audrey Rose. We get it. You like her. You've done everything put push her off the playground swings and pull her hair. The author set out to make Thomas, a younger, more dashing, and significantly more handsome (we are constantly reminded how handsome Thomas is) Sherlock Holmes. It didn't work. Part of the wonder of Sherlock Holmes is how he figures things out first and the reader has to figure out how he figured it out. This kid was trying to be Sherlock Holmes hosting a cooking show. The reader had to be told everything he was doing as he was doing it. Not a fan. 


I think it's kind of obvious at this point that this book didn't work for me. Let me assure you, it wasn't just the characters. Again, I realize this was a Young Adult book. I was promised a huge plot twist. I did not get a huge plot twist. I had the "who" figured out about 20 pages in. Spoiler alert, I was right. The "why" was a little bit of a surprise but once I thought about it, the clues were there the whole time. It is possible I was just so annoyed with the main characters, I glossed over a few things. I think it does a little disservice to young adults to assume they can't handle a plot any more complex than what this book offers. 


It's safe to say, I won't be picking up any of the other books in this series. It's also safe to say, I won't be recommending any of these books to my girls either. 

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review 2019-06-12 17:16
You should read this
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper - Hallie Rubenhold

When this book first came out, I put it on the “wait until paperback” list.  Then the news about Rubenhold being trolled arrived. She was even compared to David Irving.  Surely, I thought, this can not be simply because she is a woman and argues that not all the victim were prostitutes.  Surely, it can’t be that.  It seemed worse than when a certain mystery author claimed to have solved the case.  Surely, if the reaction Rubenhold’s book is worse than reaction to that one by Ripperologists, there must be something wrong with it.


                Well, no.  There isn’t.  Quite frankly, the reaction that Rubenhold has received from some quarters because of her book because just shows how misogynist and sexist people are.  The mystery author deserved the criticism for her book was an example of how not to research.  Rubenhold’s The Five, however, is an example of what good research does.  Rubenhold’s book should be required reading for anyone remotely interested in the Ripper or in Victorian London as well as those interested in Women’s Studies.


                The most shocking thing about the book isn’t the thesis, which Rubenhold proves to an academic standard but simply that a historian hasn’t done this before.  This isn’t intended as a slight to Rubenhold, but more at Ripperologists.  Rubenhold basically puts the women in historical context. In some ways, this book made me think of Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife, where history is used to challenge the traditional view of Anne Hathaway as a manipulative shrew.  There is an important difference, however, Rubenhold is more conservative in her conclusions than Greer.  Greer relied on guesswork and deduction in some places (her most far reaching was having Anne be partially responsible for the first printing of the Works).  Rubenhold’s conclusions are back up by data and hard facts.  When she supposes, it is a minor way and the supposition is clear.


                Elizabeth Stride, Mary Ann Nicols, Mary Jane Kelly, Catherine Eddowes, Annie Chapman.


                Those are the victims.  And Rubenhold is correct. The murderer is remembered, dare we say celebrated, more than his victims.  To be fair, this isn’t just true about Jack the Ripper.  How many of us can name a victim of Charles Manson outside of Tate?  Perhaps, in remembering the name of the murderer as opposed to the murdered not only is it one name to remember in many cases, but the actor is the reason.  This in addition to the status of the victims as well.  There is a reason why we know the name Sharon Tate as oppose to Rosemary LaBianca. 


                Rubenhold traces the lives of the women as much as she is able to.  The London and because of Stride, the Sweden, she presents is familiar to any reader of say Charles Dickens, Arnold, Judith Flanders, or social history.  If you have any detailed societal history, the facts are not surprising or shocking.  Or quite frankly, something you should be debating.  What Rubenhold does is takes those societal facts and the known facts about the victims and presents the victims as people.


                Some of the women were mothers.  Most of the women had people who loved them.  Who were mourned.  All were products of a cultural that did not value women in the same way it valued men.  Something that Rubenhold points out, and notes its long shadow.  Rubenhold’s mention of the Brock Turner case is a perfect example of how far we haven’t come.  We judge victims on worthiness.  Take for instance, the Grim Sleeper case in California.  If those victims had more money, had been white, would the case have gone unnoticed for so long?  Rubenhold also addresses how prostitution was defined and how women of different ages coped with being on the street.  Think about it – today, do we think every homeless woman is a prostitute?  I don’t think so.  So why should we think the same about women back then.


                Rubenhold doesn’t present the women as saints, but more of products of an environment.  It shows the effect of poverty and limited options.  And this is something that still affects and effects today.


                More importantly, Rubenhold presents all this – social history, brief biographies - in a format that is easily approachable and readable.  You don’t have to be a Ripperologist or a history professor to read this novel.  You just have to know how to read.


                Two other points – sources are footnoted and documented.  She is nothing like David Irving.

                The most touching part of the book is the appendix where the belongings of the women are listed.


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review 2019-02-25 19:49
Recommended to those who love horror, psychology, historical police procedurals and a different take on serial killers.
The Devil Aspect - P. Craig Russell

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely and with some trepidation chose to review.

There is much to talk about in this book (yes, I enjoyed it, if you want the short of it. Yes, it is eerie, gothic, can be scary at times, it is full of evil deeds, some not apt for the fainthearted, and full of atmosphere), and it would also be easy to fall into revealing spoilers, so I will try to talk in general terms and will keep some of the thoughts that went through my head as I read it to myself.

Rather than trying to summarise the plot, as I have already included two versions of the blurb, I thought I’d use the author’s own words (and I recommend you to read the author’s note at the end. I suspect it will keep me thinking about this book for as long as the book itself will):

The main engines that drive the story are Jungian psychology, Central European myths and legends, the history of Czechoslovakia immediately before the Second World War and the ethnic tensions that existed within the country at that time.

This is 1939, and the author is great at bringing to life the atmosphere in Czechoslovakia at the time, the politics and the strained relationships between the different parts of the population, the ethnic minorities, the Germans, Sudeten, the Jewish inhabitants, the criminal underworld, and the increasing atmosphere of threat and impending doom and evil. He also uses the locations, both in the city, the forests, and the castle, to great effect, to the point where they almost become protagonists in their own right. I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the locations of the story despite a visit to Prague many years back, although there are some, like the Bone Church (the Sedlec Ossuary) that have intrigued me for many years, and I am sure I’m not the only one who shares in the fascination.


Having worked as a forensic psychiatrist, I could not resist the idea of reading a book set in what would have been a forensic unit of the time. And what a setting! A castle that according to legend was built to keep closed the entry to hell and that now houses the six most dangerous insane criminals of all central Europe. Both, the director of the hospital and the new doctor we meet on his way to take up his new appointment, Viktor, (no, you won’t make me tell you what happened to the previous psychiatrist in the post, don’t insist) have interesting theories to explain the madness of their patients (one akin to a contagion, like that caused by a virus, the other a similar concept to that explored and exploited often in movies and films, but in this case referring to a specific aspect of one’s personality, the so-called “Devil Aspect” of the title, rather than to multiple personalities), and the book goes into a fairly detailed explanation and exploration of those theories, including allowing us to witness the doctor’s sessions using narcotics (a very dangerous technique, I must say). I found these part of the book as fascinating, if not more, as the other part that seemed to be the more active and  thrilling part of it, but I am aware that there is a lot of telling (because each one of the six devils gets a chance to tell their story), and although they help give a global picture of the nature of the evil the book refers to, not all of them seem to be directly related to the plot of the book, so guess that some readers will not feel the same as I do about those sessions.

The second part of the action, which takes place in parallel, consists of the investigation of a series of crimes in Prague, committed by a murderer, Leather Apron, who seems intent on imitating Jack the Ripper, and we follow the efforts of a police investigator Lukas Smolàk, trying to catch him. This part of the book is more akin to a police procedural of the time and is well done. It feels like a noir detective novel, only set within a gothic nightmarish background, not so dissimilar to the Victorian Ripper original. The clues are gruesome and so are the murders, and every time they seem closer to solving the crimes, something new comes to light and confuses matters. While to begin with Lukas appears to be the example of a seasoned detective who has seen everything and is wary of events in society at large, later the murders start to affect him more personally, and he becomes increasingly unravelled by the events, which humanises him and makes him easier to connect with.  

The story is told in the third person but from each one of those characters’ points of view, with some brief intrusions from other characters’ insights, like one of the victims, or Judita, who is a bit more than a friend of Viktor and also works at the hospital. This works well to give us a better understanding and makes empathise, and also suffer with them, in some cases. Personally, I really liked Judita, who has to face prejudice and has overcome her own mental health difficulties, and also Lukas, who shares with Viktor the determination to find the truth, and the analytical mind. I was intrigued by Viktor, not only because he is a psychiatrist, but because we learn from early on that he has survived a pretty difficult childhood and has had to cope with trauma. But his single-mindedness and his pursuit of his theory, sometimes despite the evident risks, not only to himself but to others, give him a tinge of the mad scientist, and I found him more interesting as a subject of observation than as somebody I felt connected to.

The Central and Eastern European mythology and the Jungian psychology theme add a further layer of complexity and work well in helping bring more uncertainty, menace, and confusion to the proceedings. There are dark corners and many secrets hidden by most of the protagonists; there are clues and warnings aplenty, red herrings, twists and turns, and although readers of the horror and the psychological thriller genres might have their suspicions and a variety of theories as to what is going on, a bit like the layers of the personality Viktor tries to reach, the narration also pulls us deeper and deeper into the darkness, the plot, and the castle, which is a physical stand-in for the deepest recesses of the human mind and also of human history.

I don’t want to bore you with my psychiatric insights, but I can say that although I’m not an expert in the history of psychiatry in Central Europe, the procedures followed in the castle, the way the place functions and the patient histories did not require a great suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I have known patients who have experienced a fugue-like state. No, I’ve never met anybody with multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder, and I don’t think it is a common diagnosis in the UK, but…)

I enjoyed the style of writing, full of vivid imagery and very atmospheric, which makes us see what is happening in our minds (sometimes even when we’d rather not), and felt the rhythm worked well, combining the investigation, that felt more pressing and hurried, with what was happening at the castle, that at least, to begin with, was more contemplative and serene. The closer we come to the end, the more the rhythm accelerates and both strands of the story come together. As I said, there is a twist, or even more than one, in the end, and I think this book has everything to recommend it to readers of the genre who also enjoy a gothic setting and are eager to explore new mythologies regarding good an evil. This is not a book I’d recommend to those who don’t enjoy horror and reading about violent crimes. And it is not a book for those who prefer books fast and full of action, but it pays to stick with it, and if you’re interested in psychiatry and are looking for a different twist on the serial killer subject, I thoroughly recommended.

I am not surprised film production companies are looking at buying this book. This could become a fascinating movie.


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