Publishing year: 2014
I started this book, thinking that I wouldn’t find much interest in it as I have read a lot about Jack the Ripper and his murders.
Yet, I couldn’t be more wrong. The novel introduces some new characters that are the conductors of the plot and the events.
The prologue starts in November 1888 when Tom Bowyer, a man who demands the rent from his boss’s tenants. When one of the tenants, Miss Kelly, doesn’t answer, he peeks through the window to find a terrible view of flesh and blood in the bed. We know that Mary Jane Kelly was the last victim of Jack the Ripper on November 9, 1888.
Next the novel jumps back in time. It is August 1887 in Calais. It is a brothel where we see two new characters: Emma and Marie, two prostitutes, who see a man murdering a woman in the street. Emma calls to him, shouting murder, and the man flees. Marie is furious because she fears Emma has called attention from the man, and they will be the next victims. Emma ignores her and alerts the men about the murder. They discover that the victim is another prostitute Bea, and Madame Yvette, the brothel’s owner, orders the body to be thrown into the sea as she won’t be missed and she doesn’t want her establishment to be linked to a murder. Marie and Emma go upstairs, and Marie decides to have a look at Bea’s things, and it is in one drawer that Emma finds a letter with the name Alice Redmayne and an address in Highbury, London. Emma decides not to tell anything to Marie, who is determined to leave.
A year later, August 1888, the action takes place in London. In this case we meet Cora, a sixteen-year-old girl, who lives with her four brothers, her sister Cat, and her father at the police station since her widowed father is a policeman. Her mother died when she gave birth to her youngest son, and Cat was forced to stay to help her father raise the boys instead of finding a man to marry. We know that one of the police officers Ned is sweet on Cat, but she feel responsible for her family, so she can’t be bothered. That day Cora wakes up to see the police in tumult. Cat sends her to find out what has happened, and she learns that a woman has been murdered, and she goes as far as going to the mortuary where she sees the body. She also sees the poor woman’s things, among which there is an envelope addressed to Alice Redmayne in Highbury inside which there is a pendant. Cora returns home and tells her sister everything. The murdered woman is Martha Tabram. Cat tells Cora to return the envelope which might be evidence, but Cora has other plans. She takes a tram to Highbury, and when she sees the address of the envelope, it is a very luxurious house she wouldn’t dare to touch. So she knocks and leaves the envelope after she has written “Whitechapel” on it.
Then we finally meet Alice Redmayne, who is a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of a famous artist. Alice is surprised to find the envelope and the pendant. She remembers the pendant was a present to her older sister Beatrice, who disappeared six years ago. So we know that the prostitute that was killed in Calais was Alice’s sister, but why did a wealthy woman end up as a prostitute? Did her parents kick her out of her house because of some improper behaviour and she ended up like that? And what about Martha Tabram? How did she have the envelope? Was Martha Tabram actually Emma, who changed her name after leaving Calais? I don’t think so. Emma Mentions being 17, and Martha Tabram was 39 when she was murdered. So how comes the envelope was found among Martha’s things?
Now Alice is curious about the envelope and thinks that her sister might be in Whitechapel. She wants to go there, so she asks her aunt Minerva if she could do some charity help in Whitechapel.
Interesting start. I am glad it is not the usual Jack the Ripper novel. I am intrigued to know more about these characters.