Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Ripper - Stefan Petrucha

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, steampunk
Published on March 1, 2012
Published by Philomel
Pages: 427
Read From: 3.22.12 - 3.22.12

Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels and his lock-picking ability to encourage him. Yet when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world-famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver not only gets the chance to find his biological father but finds himself smack in the middle of a real-life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. 
When the case begins to unfold, however, it's worse than he could have ever imagined, and his commitment to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide: Where does his true loyalty lie?


Wow. A truly amazing murder mystery/what if historical-fiction. I absolutely loved this book. Intriguing and fast-paced from the very beginning, Ripper is, in my opinion, one of the best YA books published this year. Carver is a resourceful young man, inquisitive, witty, and everything an amateur detective character should be. And he admires all of the best and brightest literary detectives. And Hawking has the classic, yet perfect, humor that all "foul-tempered, old mentors" are supposed to have. But unlike a lot of "foul-tempered, old mentors," Hawking seems genuine. It didn't feel like the Author sat down and thought, Well, all mentors are supposed to foul-tempered and gruff, so Hawking is going to have to be the same way. Hawking also loves Dupin from Poe's three mystery stories - a detective who in fact inspired Conan Doyle to write Sherlock Holmes, - so that is another plus to his character.

While the mystery behind Carver's father's identity is unbelievably easy to figure out - I new it by page 5, - it's a twist that has never been done before, and it was a very good twist. And considering the other and even bigger twist in the end, I'm not sure the Author even tried to really hide who Carver's father is. The ending twist took me longer to figure out, and I initially dismissed it because it seemed too . . . well, too surprising to be the answer. But the Author was evidently thinking along the same lines as I did, and I'm super glad that he did, because it totally made this story. I started to lose some hope in the end being any good when it threatened to become a series of ridiculous and far-fetched situations, which were clearly inspired by too many horror movies (i.e. the "monster" is dead! Oh no! The monster isn't dead! He's just sprung up and grabbed my leg, even though I just unloaded two machine guns into his gut and a hatchet!) The ending events of this book weren't quite that ridiculous, but it was kind of along the same lines, where the Reader thought the villain was dead, and then he's suddenly hijacking the train that our heroes just happen to be on. But the Author completely regained any lost ground with the grand finale twist.

Another thing that also surprised - and pleased me - was the lack of gory detail. There are lots of violent murders in this book; that's part of what makes it so good. But the Author never gives unnecessary detail about it, and that surprised me. So many murder-mystery Authors like to show off their new-found anatomy knowledge in the gruesomest language possible, it seems. By not detailing the extent of the damage done to the bodies, the Author managed to make the scene far more gristly and horrifying than it would have been with descriptions. But maybe he also thought it unnecessary because practically everyone knows how Jack the Ripper killed his victims, so any details would just get tedious.

This story is also filled with awesome steampunk-like gadgets, many of which actually existed. Probably the most fascinating part of this book are the Author Notes, where the Author kindly explains what's fact and fiction, and what inventions actually existed. You'll be surprised at how many he didn't make up, unless you're well-versed in 19th-early 20th century gadgets.

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