Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

January 29, 2014 Harper Books, Review 10

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 28, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062291408
  • Source: Publisher

Amanda Jackson has always been interested in the evil side of human nature.  It started at a relatively young age and has progressed so dramatically that she, along with her grandfather, take part in an online mystery group. While originally created to investigate the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, the group is now investigating a string of murders that have cropped up on San Francisco. Certain to uncover something the police have overlooked, Amanda becomes closer to the case than she imagined when her mother, Indiana, a holistic healer, is kidnapped.  Amanda now has the strongest motivation ever to identify the killer, before her mother becomes the next victim.

When I learned about the premise of this book, my interest was immediately piqued.  My education has a background in both criminal justice and psychology and, like many others, I’ve always been fascinated by the unsolved Ripper killings. When I was pitched this book, I couldn’t resist. And then I got the book. And started reading. And it was nothing like I imagined.

While the serial murder cases certainly have a spot in the plot of this novel, the main focus is actually the characters. While I’m a fan of character-driven novels, I admit this was a huge disappointment. A fan of this author’s previous work, I was bound and determined to keep reading, certain it would pay off in the end. Not so much. I actually stopped reading sixty pages before the conclusion. I couldn’t do it any more. I found the novel to be inundated with so much character focus and development that I think it truly lost its point and focus. Additionally, whether it be to poor editing or a poorly executed novel, I found myself to feel insulted as a reader due to the excessive repetitive statements and facts. Things the reader had been told already would come up, portrayed as new information.

Additionally, the character focus seemed to be all over the place. One minute we were focusing on one character (which would require flashbacks to the past, etc.) and then it would spiral on to the next character, seemingly out of the blue. Decisions made by some of the characters seemed completely out of the norm that would be expected given all that we knew about them up until that point and so, ultimately, I gave up. I couldn’t do it anymore.

If this was this author’s attempt to leap into the world of thriller fiction, I think she failed. Even if she just wanted that as a backdrop and wanted to instead focus on the characters, that too failed. In the end, I feel as there was just so much information that the original intent of the novel was overlooked.

Typically, if I do not finish a book I don’t review it. Yet in this case I feel the need, the duty to report just why I couldn’t finish it, despite being so close to the end. So, take this review as my opinion and choose to read this novel if you like, but personally, I cannot recommend it. At all. To anyone.


10 Responses to “Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende”

  1. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    I’ve got a cjus background as well and Jack’s always been of interest to me too. Darn! That is disappointing. I did find it a little odd – Allende doing a Jack the Ripper thriller – but I had high hopes. I’ll still give it a shot but it’s moving down the stack.

  2. Surly B.

    I never trust a book blogger until they tell the truth about books that don’t meet the mark. It’s refreshing, and is much appreciated.

  3. Kailana

    To me I cringe at this book because I loved Allende and I am sad she left her roots. But, people are giving this great reviews. So, I don’t know what to think…

  4. Julianne - Outlandish Lit

    I’m glad you were so honest about how this book disappointed you! I mean, it’s unfortunate that it didn’t live up to your expectations, and I’m sorry for that. But I probably would have put this book on my list from just hearing about the plot. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I wondered about this one. Allende does a good job with sweeping, historical, epic-feeling stories with strong women (although she has a way of making her women seem perfect which annoys me). I guess I have to give her credit for trying a new genre, but hopefully she goes back to what she does best.

  6. SuziQoregon

    I’ve had mixed reactions to her work. Loved Daughter of Fortune but Zorro left me kind of flat. I think I would be annoyed by this one.

  7. Heather

    I wasn’t fond of Ripper, either. Interestingly, though, you got annoyed by too much character development, and I was annoyed that there wasn’t enough. Haha! I felt like the characters were all a caricature of a type.

  8. Literary Feline

    You are so spot on about the repetition, especially towards the end. I literally stopped reading just so I could complain to my husband before I went on to finish the book. I am not sure if you’d gotten that far into the book or not.

    I did like certain aspects of the book–and I really did want to like it. It fell short for me though, and in the end I was disappointed. I am glad I wasn’t alone.

  9. Amanda

    I returned this to the library unread after a friend said it wasn’t great and I was feeling guilty. Thank you for making me feel better about that! I love Allende’s past work, so this makes me really sad. I hope she stays away from this path for the future.