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Reviewed by:
  • The Name of the Star
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Johnson, Maureen. The Name of the Star. Putnam, 2011. [384p]. (Shades of London) ISBN 978-0-399-25660-8 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8–12.

Even in contemporary times, it seems that Jack the Ripper is not yet finished with London. When seventeen-year-old Louisiana native Rory arrives in the city to attend a posh private school for her senior year, she expects the usual English novelties: tea, scones, plenty of rain, and maybe a couple of cute guys with hot accents. What she finds instead is a community gripped in “Rippermania” after an apparent copycat begins recreating Saucy Jack’s infamous murders. In an eerie twist, the CCTV footage capturing the crimes show the victims in plain sight but their attacker is nowhere to be seen. Rory, however, does see someone in the courtyard of her school, where a body is found the next day. She is soon approached by a member of an elite section of law enforcement and finds herself with several ghost-hunting bodyguards as it becomes clear that her life is being threatened by a potentially non-human entity. Ripper enthusiasts may be ultimately disappointed by the revelation of the murderous spirit’s true identity, but fans of dark, intense crime thrillers will find plenty of chills here. The notorious gruesomeness of the original Whitechapel murders provides plenty of titillating fodder as the story’s foundation, but Johnson effectively balances these more salacious aspects by anchoring the story in the familiar structure of a boarding-school drama. The tension ratchets up to the nth degree when good old Jack strikes on the supposedly secure school grounds, and the story quickly becomes an exploration in fear and celebrity as much as a thriller. Rory and her crew do, of course, eventually dispatch Jack, but the streets of London offer plenty of more evil spirits, so be on the lookout for the future installments of this planned series. [End Page 86]



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