Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
OK. I loved this book.
I’ve been reading some average books lately. None was as good as I’d hoped, or held my interest for long. And then along came The Name of the Star, a book I’d been vaguely interested in reading for months now but for some reason had always been pushed to the back of the pile.
I was hooked from the first chapter.
I should confess now that I have a (slightly morbid) fascination with Jack the Ripper. I did a history project on the 1888 murders and have read tons of books on the subject, so this really was my kind of story. I was delighted to find that Johnson has really done her research, for those strange people who don’t read about 19th century serial killers in their spare time, The Name of the Star weaves in some pretty detailed, gruesome and accurate information about the facts of the case, the injuries inflicted on the murder victims and the killing grounds of the famous serial killer.
There’s a great balance between the dark, sinister and creepy and some genuine laugh out loud moments. I just loved Rory, who possesses a dry wit, is kind, outgoing and confident. It’s always refreshing to have a young heroine who isn’t angsty, obsessing over some boy or agonising over her own looks or perceived defects. She is confident in her own skin and despite being uprooted, in a new country, at a new school, goes about meeting everyone with an openness and friendliness that made me like her instantly. I also adored Jazz aka: the perfect roommate. She reminded me a lot of my own uni friends, we would regularly settle down with endless cups of tea and biscuits as we worked through the night for a deadline.
There is a little romance in The Name of the Star but it is very much in the background. Jerome was sweet, but personally, I was drawn to someone else. I actually loved pretty much all the characters in this, but I don’t want to go into detail fear or giving something away. I will say that, Stephen, you intrigue me and I also get the feeling you might be hot in a Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock kind of way. Also, Alistair — I begrudge the fact that you weren’t attractively hanging out in my school library, ready and willing to help out with homework assignments. Please continue to be awesome in book two. The murderer definitely had that creepy-factor. He was disturbing and dangerous, although his motives were a little questionable. However, I enjoyed this book far too much for this to have a real negative impact on the story.
I picked up The Name of the Star thinking I knew exactly what to expect and ended up reading a very different book. Rory’s involvement with the murders doesn’t really pick up until half-way through, so some people may find the beginning of the book a little slow. I personally loved these chapters, which concentrated on developing the characters and creating a traditional English boarding school atmosphere and thought the pacing was just right. Johnson builds up the suspense carefully, leading to some great tension-filled action scenes at the end. The Name of the Star does in many ways work as a standalone novel, but there is a fantastic ending, which, while not exactly a cliffhanger, sure as hell made me desperate to get my hands on book two.
The Name of the Star is a great story, part paranormal, part old-fashioned detective tale, with plenty of twists. Jack the Ripper has been revisited many times in literature, but this story feels fresh and original. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric book and Johnson really brings the echos of Victorian London to life. I cannot wait to read more about the secret ghost police of London (and I really wish this were a real thing).