I have a complicated relationship with Jack the Ripper fiction. I really want to like it but I rarely do. In fact, the only one I really enjoyed was Melanie Clegg's From Whitechapel and you could argue that it is more a novel that uses the case as background than an actual Ripper-novel.
My track-record with Holmes meets the Ripper fiction is even worse. In the best case, I found them totally forgettable but mostly they were so horrid that I wanted to rip them into little pieces.
Dust and Shadow is different. I love it. It's a great Holmes-pastiche. Faye catches the voice of Watson perfectly. I also didn't feel that her Watson was too stupid or her Holmes too cold, both are things that often ruin Holmes pastiches for me.
It's also a great fictional account of the Ripper killings. With the focus on fictional. I don't mean that Faye didn't do her research (she definitely did), but in reality, there was no Sherlock Holmes involved in the investigation. The fact that here he was does change some minor things because the Ripper reacts to Holmes' involvement. I think only absolute purists can object to the way this was handled. I found it very well done (and I have often grumbled over stuff like this ^^).
The whole subject is also treated with the respect it deserves. Of course, this is the true story of the brutal killings of several women and you can certainly argue that it is always ghoulish to read/watch/listen/play anything inspired by something like that. I know that there are people who wouldn't do that under any circumstances and I am aware that my enjoyment of these stories might be a bit questionable...
But there are different ways to treat this case (I actually read a story once in which the author thanked Jack the Ripper in the foreword because he inspired so many authors...really). This book never forgets that the victims were people and the characters act accordingly.
Then there is of course the question of the ending. It won't be a spoiler when I tell you that this book doesn't stray so far from the historical facts that the Ripper is caught and everybody is happy. I've seen various ways the question 'Why didn't they say anything when they knew who it was' (if in fact they found out...) was handled and I have to say that I liked this one best so far. It made sense and was not out of character for Holmes.
Emmanuel Ortiz holds an ancient and dark secret...
His real name is Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, Judas' disguise as Emmanuel does little to ease his eternal loneliness. Having recovered nine of his thirty blood coins, his focus is not yet on redemption for his treacherous role in the betrayal of Jesus Christ.
Distractions come easily for the rich entrepreneur and sometimes sleuth who presently resides in England, 1888. Fascinated by the spate of murders in London's poverty stricken Whitechapel, Emmanuel soon realizes the killings resemble others he is familiar with, and the bloody signature of killing and taunts speaks to the unholy talents of yet another immortal...an enemy from long ago.
This knowledge fuels his determination to track and apprehend the infamous Jack the Ripper at any cost.
With the backdrop of a Victorian Society, rigid and moralistic, along with the plight of those less fortunate, Emmanuel seeks to align himself with Scotland Yard. With the help of his immortal pal, Roderick Cooley, and by pretending to be an American private investigator interested in the horrific prostitute killings, he sets out to stop the senseless bloodshed. But, has he bitten off more than he can chew, by immersing himself in the slums and disease of the Ripper's hunting grounds?
As the mystery unfolds it becomes the ultimate test...not only of his abilities as an immortal, but also of his very soul.
This book has an amazing premise with an execution that is...lacking. The book is just all over the place.
Judas thinks once he found the 30 silver coins his immortality will end and he will age normally. Judas tells a friend that a major injury might still kill him. Judas suddenly knows that a beheading will certainly kill him.
It makes sense that immortality doesn't come with a manual, but that was just odd. A clear explanation of what he knows for sure and what he suspects would have been nice (that would have been an occasion where I hadn't minded a bit of infodumping...the author clearly isn't averse to it since he also told us the life-story of several completely irrelevant characters).
There is some good stuff as well: Judas has a fellow immortal friend who had the misfortune of not looking like a healthy, middle-aged men. He has to disguise his paleness and his eyes constantly, but still sticks out so much that he's met with some suspicion. That's just a nice detail that isn't included in many stories about immortality (even nicer would have been if the main character would have had to deal with that problem...)
But the rest...Judas feels like a failed try at an unreliable narrator. He says he cares und is looking for redemption but then imports opium and sells it to illegal opium dens (he also imports "cotton, gold, diamonds, tea, spices" no where did that come from?
he does change his opinion on the opium but not a word about the other stuff).
There was a weird jumping back and forth between extremes going on. He can't do anything for the people in the East End. He throws money at them. Child labour sucks but happens. He feels bad about getting others in trouble. He thinks it's mostly their fault anyway...it felt like reading the First Person narration of about five different people. And not only when it come to his (lack of) guilt: the first time they get an incredibly vague description of a guy who might be the Ripper Judas immediately thinks that this sounds like a fellow immortal whom he knows to be violent and who hates woman. And then he suddenly doesn't even consider other possibilities. No, it just has to be him...later he gets a second description, that also matches and then he thinks 'Previously I had doubts but now I was sure it had to be him.' You had doubts? When?
Also he talks a lot about how this immortal is much stronger than him and he could never beat him in a fight (except a duel. Perhaps...oh ffs I'm tired of listing all the contradictions in this book). But he never explains why. It doesn't seem to be a simple case of 'he's a better fighter'. Somehow Judas considers him totally out of his league because...because...whatever
It might have made some sense if he'd been an older immortal, but he's almost 1000 years younger than Judas so what makes him so special? No idea.
I understand that the beginning of a series needs to leave some questions open but there were too many things that just did not make sense at all.
Which is sad because the bits that dealt with Judas's guilt over betraying Jesus were actually done really well (AND CONSISTENT) and showed glimpses of how this could have been a really good book but alas...
Review Copy provided by the Curiosity Quill Press.
I almost wrote 'I had to read a lot of Jack the Ripper-novels to realize my problem with them in general' but I didn't really read and finish many. I started a lot but I only made it through The Whitechapel Horrors (not sure why) and From Whitechapel (which was actually good but really not that much about Jack the Ripper).
So: I had to start a lot of Ripper-novels to realize my problem: I don't believe there was some huge freemasonic/royal/whatever conspiracy that covered everything up and protected the murderer. I believe that the Ripper died/was imprisoned for a different crime/moved away and that's the reason he got never caught.
Narrative-wise this doesn't make for the best novels. Readers want to know who did it. Readers also probably don't want a corrupt policeman who lets a murderer go free. Even if you go for the solution one of The Lodger adaptations went for (the unknown killer escapes from the police only to drown in the Thames) people would ask 'So why did they not make this public?' Of course without a body there'd still have been suspicions (and conspiracy-theories) but if the police said 'he's dead' and there'd have been no murders afterwards...
Long story short: a Ripper-novels needs a killer...and a reason why the investigating police-man couldn't arrest him. A conspiracy reaching high up into the government and/or the royal family is a good reason. It's just that I really don't like conspiracies. Not only when it comes to Jack the Ripper-novels but in fiction in general. (Yeah I sort of enjoy the From Hell movie for reasons that might or might not be connected with the lead actor...) so I will dislike lots of Ripper-novels just because they use a trope I don't like at all (and the rest will be frustrating because the killer isn't revealed or the reasons he isn't caught are forced).
I might have saved money if I thought about this earlier :P
And yes...all this came to me when I started reading the comic (I must also admit that I'm not a fan of the artwork...it's certainly not bad but I personally just don't like the style)