I debated just marking the spoilery paragraphs, but I have too many spoilery things to talk about to restrict it to just a few paragraphs. This will be very spoilery. You have been warned.
I have no idea what to write for the first paragraph, so let’s just get into the review.
Most of the characters were really flat and not that memorable. In the first fifty or sixty pages of the book, it seemed like there would be some good character development, but it just stopped after that point. After finishing the book, I’m left feeling like I can’t remember the characters, and, no matter how much I think about them, I can’t remember that much about them. Jazza played the cello and didn’t break rules. Jerome had curly hair, may have been interested in astronomy, and dated the main character, but I can’t remember anything else about him. The only development Charlotte got was that she’s ambitious and Rory doesn’t like that. That’s not character development. That’s one person’s opinion, and it’s a ridiculous opinion to begin with. Charlotte could have just been someone Rory didn’t get along with instead of attempting to make her dislikable for no reason. It’s not like she has to be disliked so that people suspect her of something later in the book, it’s completely arbitrary and unnecessary.
Even though I found myself not being able to connect or relate to the characters, there was one exception. I loved Alistair. He’s the only character I felt like I could really connect to, and I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find people like him in real life. I want to know people like this, and, honestly, I’d probably crush on a guy who had fancy, spiked hair, and liked eighties goth music. As it turns out, he’s dead. The reason I can’t find people like him is that he was actually someone from the eighties. (Side note: If anyone has access to a time machine and is willing to take my eyeliner and me back to the eighties, let me know.) Even though there wasn’t much character development for Alistair, I’m willing to overlook it. He sits in dark parts of the library and reads all day. He has fancy hair. He writes papers for people in exchange for music. He wears Doc Martens (which, despite what Pretty Little Liars will tell you, are the best type of shoe). He could have just showed up for half a page during the book and he still would have been my favorite. (Side note: I have decided that, when I am a ghost, I would like to be this kind: Wearing Doc Martens for eternity and haunting a library. That’s basically what I do already in life, so I might as well continue it in death.)
If you’ve been reading my review for any amount of time, you know how I am about backstory. I felt like this book left something to be desired with that, as well. Since the “Jack the Ripper” in this story wasn’t the real one, and was, in reality, and angry ghost who had questionable motives and nothing to do with the real Jack the Ripper, the author couldn’t rely on the history to be the backstory. I don’t think that relying on history to be backstory is a good thing, but, at the very least, it would have been something. There was backstory for the antagonist, but his whole plan was to cause enough trouble to get the attention of the ghost hunters, so he could destroy the things they use to get rid of ghosts, and then live (possibly not the best choice of words) forever. The problem with that plan is that the ghost hunters don’t go after ghosts who aren’t causing trouble, so if he had just not murdered anyone, he would have continued to be able to exist in peace.
There was some backstory for some of the characters, but it was brief enough that you didn’t have time to empathize with them, or connect to them. Some of the characters had emotional backstories, and they deserved more attention. It’s an almost four hundred page book, so it’s not like there wasn’t time to give backstory. I plan to read the other books in the series, and I hope that the author expands on the characters’ backstories in those.
I really don’t know what I wanted this to be. I went into this not expecting the new Jack the Ripper to be a ghost with poor decision making skills, but I probably wouldn’t really have been able to get into a historical horror novel, so maybe it was for the better that the twist happened? But, on the other hand, I went into it expecting it to be the real Jack the Ripper, so having a moody, middle aged ghost man instead kind of feels like a let down. But, in addition to that, no one ever figured out who Jack the Ripper was, so how would someone handle having the ghost of the actual Jack the Ripper? Would it become a loose interpretation of history? I don’t know.
The only thing I new about this book before I went into it was the vague memory I had of the description I read when I bought it several years ago, so maybe I was disappointed by it only because I didn’t have a clear memory of what it was supposed to be about? Who knows.
The one thing I really liked was the way the author handled people being able to see ghosts. It had a scientific explanation behind it, which I thought was really interesting, and I don’t know if I’ve seen that kind of thing anywhere else before. I wish there had been a little more detail about why exactly it happened, but, like with the backstory for some of the characters, I’m hoping that there will be more about this in future books.
Four stars. But it would have been lower if Alistair hadn’t been in it.