Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
This story had me gripped from the beginning and I had a genuine issue with putting it down. The real life case of Jack the Ripper is interesting in itself, if dark pieces of history is your kind of thing like it can be mine, so I was really intrigued by who the killer would turn out to be. However, I ended up guessing it incredibly early on, and though I didn't know for sure until the end, the more I kept reading the more it solidified my instincts on this particular character. I tend to not be great at figuring out the answer to mysteries, so I am not sure if I got lucky or if it was easier to deduce than it should have been. I personally do not think it affected my enjoyment all that much because I really liked our main character, Audrey and her friend Thomas.
Audrey and Thomas were so much fun to read. Their dialogue was incredibly well done and I enjoyed the slow build of their friendship and then romance. It's flirty and fun but with the case of a serial murderer at their focus I liked that the romance took a back seat. I enjoyed that they worked together really well and they both brought something beneficial to the case. I liked them both and wanted them to succeed. The other characters I didn't have much of a reaction to either way. I got incredibly annoyed at Audrey's father but it wasn't something I didn't expect for a man in the 19th century. We didn't see much of her aunt or cousin, however I do wish we got more of her cousin.
The writing is beautiful. It is very atmospheric and I felt like I was in London in 1888. There is a lot of fantastic imagery that makes the story play out before you. The author has a love for forensic science and that definitely shows in the descriptions of Audrey's work with the cadavers in her Uncle's laboratory. The first chapter alone had me both squeamish and super pumped about what was to come for the rest of the story.
I did have a few problems with the way Audrey's very progressive personality was dealt with. Obviously in the year 1888 it isn't seen as "ladylike" to practice forensic medicine. But Audrey did, and besides the fact she kept it from her father so he couldn't ruin her chances on continuing her studies, she didn't care what people thought. It was her passion to help figure out the stories of the bodies that came through her Uncle's morgue. However, sometimes her progressiveness seemed fake and forced. I would have liked it to be a bit more subtle, more natural. I do like that she stood for herself, and was appalled by the way the prostitutes were being treated. I liked that she had a passion for something that was not traditionally designated for women. I didn't like the way she put woman down. Like we get it, you're not like the other girls. I hate that kind of message, and I think that kind of message shows how "feminist" the message really is. Audrey came off like feeling superior to woman who did fit the mold of what a woman was supposed to be like during that time. To her, the other woman are gossiping air heads who are only destined to marry their husbands where she is better than them because men and gossip are not on her radar. Audrey doesn't blatantly say these things, but her thoughts and responses to other women definitely makes it feel that way. Which isn't even true, because once she meets Thomas, she is obviously into him. I think there should have been either a moment of her learning that her judgements towards these women are incredibly ridiculous or there should have been a better balance in her character. For instance like her cousin, Liz, who seemed like a great balance of both non-traditional and traditional morals of the time. I think feminist characters, especially ones like Audrey are great to see in literature, but hammering it into every single conversation seemed over the top. I am all about feminim in books, but I also don't need to be beaten over the head with the topic. Honestly, I feel weird even labeling it "feminism" because it really isn't. It's a kind of feminism people who hate the term turn to on why they hate it. It's one sided and only benefits a certain woman instead of being inclusive to all of the women in the story.
I also wish we got more of Audrey's Indian heritage. It's brought of briefly when she brings up that her mother was Indian and that she had memories of wearing beautiful saris. Also the scene where she enjoys foods like naan at a circus. But that was it. It just seemed disrespectful and poorly executed. Also, if the main character is half Indian maybe have a model that is at least partially Indian on the cover?! I kept forgetting she was supposed to be half Indian because it's mentioned so rarely and the woman on the cover was what I saw every time I opened the book.
Other than the feminism issues and lack of mention of Audrey's heritage, I really enjoyed this book as a historical fiction murder mystery. I thought it was a fun mystery and it kept my interest from start to finish. Enough that I definitely plan on picking up the sequel, Hunting Prince Dracula, when I bring this book back to my library. I am really excited to continue with the story and go on more adventures with Audrey. I just hope the sequel redeems itself and there's more of the great writing and dialogue without the soap box.