Maureen Johnson – The Name of the Star
149. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (2011)
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Young Adult, and somewhere at junction of Supernatural/Mystery/Horror
Started: 15 November 2011
Finished: 16 November 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I liked the other books/stories of Maureen Johnson’s that I’ve read, and then someone says “Jack the Ripper” and I’m sold.
Boarding school is hard
enough without the ghosts and
Summary: Starting her senior year at a prestigious boarding school in the middle of London would ordinarily be exciting enough for Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux. But on the same day that Rory arrives at Wexford, a young woman is murdered – in the same place, in the same fashion, and on the same date as the first of the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. The country holds its breath, and when there is another murder a week later – following the Ripper’s pattern – the media goes wild with Rippermania. Police are stumped, though; there are no witnesses, including London’s thousands of CCTV surveillance cameras. Rory, however, has seen a man near one of the crime scenes… a man that seemingly, no one else can see. But does her unique ability mean that she’s the only one who can solve the case? Or that she’s destined to be next on the killer’s list?
Review: This book sucked me in quickly, and didn’t spit me out until the end. (Well, almost. I was a responsible adult and went to work in the middle, instead of calling in sick and staying home to keep reading. But it was a close thing!) It’s a fantastic premise; I really enjoy Victorian London, especially Whitechapel/Jack the Ripper stories (The Tea Rose and The Map of Time are the two that come to mind), so a modern-day serial killer following the same pattern is an interesting twist that was guaranteed to catch my attention. This book is effectively creepy in a lot of ways, enough to have me looking over my shoulder for a few days after I finished it, but not least is the idea that everyone knows when and where the murders will occur, yet no one seems to be able to stop it.
Also a surprise plus: it’s a boarding school story! I don’t always read synopses super-carefully, but I can’t believe I skimmed over that little detail. I love boarding school stories, and Johnson does a nice job bringing Wexford to life, getting a lot of the small details right without leaning too heavily on boarding-school cliche. The one downside to this was that it meant the book didn’t have as strong of a London atmosphere as I would have expected from a Jack the Ripper story. Rory’s school goes on lockdown pretty quickly after the murders start, and she doesn’t spend a lot of time off school grounds and exploring the city, which is understandable from a narrative point of view, but unfortunate for someone who wants her books in London to feel totally London-y.
That’s pretty minor, though; for the most part, this book was great: interesting characters, fascinating and compelling plot, plenty of twists and turns, plenty of funny parts, and an effectively creepy vibe throughout. (And a boarding school!) 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you respond to the phrase “possibly the work of Jack the Ripper’s ghost” with an enthusiastic “Yes please!”, then you should already be reading this book. Otherwise, it’d be good fun for people who like contemporary YA, ghost stories, or serial-killer-mysteries.
Other Reviews: Oh, there’s oodles of them over at the Book Blog Search Engine.
First Line: The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins.
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