Sixteen-year-old American girl Rory has just arrived at boarding school in London when a Jack the Ripper copycat-killer begins terrorising the city. All the hallmarks of his infamous murders are frighteningly present, but there are few clues to the killer’s identity. “Rippermania” grabs hold of modern-day London, and the police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. In an unknown city with few friends to turn to, Rory makes a chilling discovery… Could the copycat murderer really be Jack the Ripper back from the grave?
I'm a big lover of creepy, gritty urban stuff so I'm not sure why I didn't rip this from the shelves as soon as it was released. I kept seeing great reviews of it and wondering why I hadn't bought a copy. Anyway, I put that right and sat down on Sunday and was instantly drawn into this modern-day London world that Maureen Johnson had created. I was pretty much sold as she walked her character Rory down the streets of the East End. I don't really know anything about Jack the Ripper apart from the usual facts like no-one knowing who he was and so on. However, I learnt that most of what I thought I knew was in fact untrue.
Rory (or Aurora which she hates being called) has always wanted to come to London to study and gets her chance when her parents move to England for work. I loved how Rory adapts to everything and she has such a wry sense of humour that even in the darkest moments she could be replied upon for a great comment. Before she even arrived in London the first "Ripper-esque" murder has taken place and the capital has gone mad. By the day of the second murder Rory has made great friends and is sneaking out to watch events unfold from a nearby roof. What happens on her return journey I found more than a little chilling.
There's so much to love in this book. Rory has great friends, I adored quiet but determined Jazza with her tea obsession. I joined with both of them in their hatred of Charlotte the head girl. One of my favourite characters was Jo and there's a really poignant scene between her and Rory which I read again as soon as I'd finished the book. The way that Rippermania grips the country is brilliantly done with the attitude of the public, the reliance on the BBC and the way that the hysteria builds. There's also a great deal of fascinating history seamlessly blended in about "dead" underground stations and war-time tragedies. I'm being deliberately woolly about the plot as I don't want to give even the tiniest thing away.
For me this was almost a perfect urban fantasy and I'm so glad this is part one of a series (Shades of London) so that I can immerse myself back into the mysterious, weird and creepy world that Maureen Johnson has created.