Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #1
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Comments: Very pretty, I like the watercolour effect. Though the butterfly is a little out of place.
The mystery of Jack the Ripper is one that has fascinated the world since the anonymous murders occurred in 1888. Who was this serial killer? How did he evade capture? And what drove him to such brutal actions in the first place? Part of the terror (or some might say allure) comes from this lack of knowledge, which has stood the test of time among scholars and creatives alike. This is why when teenager Rory moves from Louisiana to Wexford, a London boarding school, only to find the work of a copycat killing has happened right on her new doorstep, she is in far more danger that she could realise. Especially since she’s the only one to see the suspect – but that’s not all she can see – after nearly choking to death Rory can see ghosts. Now a secret organisation of ghost hunters known as The Shades need her help to stop the killings, as the new Ripper may be more that he appears.
Ultimately, The Name of the Star is an enjoyable book. Rory is an interesting and funny character, whose inner musings, (—), as she compares and copes with life between America and England make her not only likeable, but relatable. As a British person living in London, reading Rory’s thoughts were quite amusing and just show that what one person considers normal can be new and strange for another. I was also grateful that neither nationality was stereotyped or overly mocked – whilst there was a gentle poking at both English and American culture, it all seemed in good nature.
As for the plot, the idea of ghost-busting police is engaging and original, not to mention fun (they are sometimes known as “Scotland Graveyard”). The reveal of Rory’s new ability marks a distinct change in the tone of the book, from contemporary to paranormal. Seeing ghosts changes her life quite dramatically, which is reflected in the narrative, bring the Ripper into the spotlight. As for the Ripper himself, he is convincingly creepy and dangerous, which builds up tension between the murder dates and increases the pressure on the Shades to stop him.
For a book about ghosts, I would have liked to have seen a few more. I was also intrigued by the use of an abandoned Underground station, which was a clever metaphor for the ghosts themselves – hidden in plain sight, known only by those who know where to look – but again, I wish there had been more development around this topic. I was also slightly annoyed about the almost cliffhanger ending; it was abrupt and jarred with the narrative pace of the rest of the novel.
Luckily, the next volume was available to me as soon as I finished, so I just set this one down and moved on to the next one.