Monday, 3 December 2012
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Author: Maureen Johnson
Released: September 29th 2011
Pages: 374 (Paperback)
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events 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. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory 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.
The first novel I read by Johnson was 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I was severely disappointed. However, as soon as I caught sight of the cover and read the blurb, I didn't care how I'd found her other books - I had to read this. And you know what? The Name of the Star was everything I'd wanted 13 Little Blue Envelopes to be, and more. It's been two days, and I'm still reeling from it!
The Name of the Star, as you might possibly have gathered from the title, is centered around someone mimicking the murders of Jack the Ripper. Rory, our all-American heroine, has just moved to a boarding school in London, and as she's getting used to the strange ways of British life, she also finds out that she had a pretty unique power - a power that means she can see the main suspect when her friend's cannot.
Firstly, I'd just like to say what an amazing premise this novel has. I've always been intrigued by Jack the Ripper - he's so unknown that everything about him is a complete mystery, and I guess I've just been waiting for someone to take up the facts and turn it into a brilliant piece of fiction. If you don't know who Jack the Ripper is, he was an unknown serial killer in London in 1888. The reason he is so famous is because no one ever found out who he was - five murders, all known to be him, but nobody knew an actual identification, and no one ever has. There were speculations and suspects, but nothing really solid was made from it, which is one of the main reasons he is still so feared; we never figured him out. Johnson has taken this fear of the unknown and has developed it into a fast-paced thriller.
I think I have got to comment on the pace - it was good. Not too fast, but not too slow. I find that some books are described as thrillers, but are too slow to really get the reader's blood racing. The Name of the Star definitely did not have this problem - as it was building up to its climax, it literally felt as if my fingers were glued to the book - I couldn't put it down!
The characters were fantastic too. I loved Rory - she was tough, witty, and easy to relate to; everything you want in a good heroine. Jazza and Jerome did become rather irritating, but I suppose some friends can be like that. The Sight Squad - for that is what I'm going to call them - was fantastic! I loved the different personalities that the three of them had, and loved how they played off one another. I felt these were some of Johnson's strongest characterizations - to me, they felt real, as if these kinds of people could exist out there, somewhere.
However, I've got to save the best of all characters for last - Johnson's Jack the Ripper. I felt her portrayal of him was unique - I don't want to post spoilers, but her interpretations of him were unlike anything I've seen before, yet it still all connected to the facts of the original Ripper, which was good. If that connection hadn't been there, I don't think that the endeavor would be as successful.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I suppose what prompted me to get my ass in gear and to read it was the fact that I've recently received an ARC of The Madness Underneath, the second installment in the Shades of London series. This was a brilliant start to the series, and I honestly believe it has a lot of potential to grow and become outstanding. If you love paranormal novels and ghosts, go and pick this up straight away - it'll make you want to go to London and to never turn back.