Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him--the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target. In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Hardcover, 372 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Speak (first published September 29th 2011)

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I felt like this Jack the Ripper inspired novel had so much promise, but for me it didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I liked it, but wasn’t in love with it.  I wanted more terror and atmosphere.  This wasn’t the chilling horror I was expecting from the blurb, but it was still a good novel.  I liked it; it was still a good mystery.  I think that’s where I was mislead in that the marketing seems to project this idea that The Name of the Star is a horror novel.  It’s not, even though what Jack the Ripper did was horrifying.  The Name of the Star is about an American girl, Rory, plopped into the East End of London at a boarding school and dealing with her life there.  And then there’s this thing with the Ripper, but we’ll get to that.

Maureen Johnson is particularly gifted with created vibrant and original characters that can almost pop out of the book.  Through Rory’s school life we meet a cast of interesting people -- Jazza the quiet waiting-to-break-out-of-her-shell roommate, Jerome the Ripper fanatic prefect, and Boo.  There’s too much to say about Boo, she’s an experience.  These characters are what made the pre-mystery part of the novel bearable for me, but I’m not particularly fond of school-days contemporary.

The mystery that was promised took awhile to get started.  Rory isn’t involved as anything more than a distant spectator for quite awhile into the murders.  When she finally does become involved though, the novel began to have its own shine.  Before then, I felt like I was reading just another book based in a school and making friends with nothing exceptional going on and blah blah blah…etc.  And with any good mystery, at the end the pieces fit together spectacularly.  No extra pieces, no missing pieces -- just a solid mystery.

The fact the mystery turned out awesome was the number one redeeming quality for me.  I otherwise would have not very much liked this book.  I was somewhat disappointed, as I wanted to like it so much more (as I do any book -- believe it or not I don’t want to dislike books).  I recommend it for contemporary-lovers wanting to step out of their comfort zone and try a paranormal-light mystery (yes, this is a paranormal book -- another thing not really stressed in marketing, but always welcome in my world).

Final Thought: 3 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

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