I really wish that I had liked this book. The premise sounded great, but besides the descriptions of the dissections, this book was all over the place with the main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth. We find out in the story that she is a biracial young woman living in England in 1888. I had a hard time with believing that society would not have reacted to her being half-Indian. Also the description of what she looked like didn't really mesh with someone who was half white and half Indian. I only say this because I have two sets of friends in interracial marriages where one of the parties is white and the other is Indian. Their kids do not have creamy/pale skin. So that part of Audrey threw me. Also author Maniscalco does not go into at all what makes Audrey obsessed with the dead. From what I can gather from the book it seems as if her uncle assists Scotland Yard in cases and he is an earlier form of forensic scientist. Does Audrey want this same type of career? Obviously that type of career is closed to her during this time period, but they quickly gets undone with the ending. My biggest issue though is that besides having Audrey being a woman investigating the Ripper murders in Whitechapel, there is not enough intrigue left for me to care much. And I say investigating loosely since most of her investigating is going around and not actually talking to anyone besides her uncle, brother, and the love interest (who sucks by the way) in this book Thomas.
The beginning of this book starts off with a bang, we find the main character Audrey dissecting a corpse with her uncle looking on. We don't know why Audrey is dissecting this corpse and the writing at times will turn you off here, but we quickly find out it is 1888 and that Audrey is doing something that would make most women and men shun her due to Audrey holding interest in something besides clothes and tea. This is also the beginning of dealing with Audrey being insufferable as anything. I should not be rooting for the main character to get her comeuppance as I read, but I thought that Audrey looking down on everyone while she "investigates" was off-putting. There are a couple of well it's shame that women are out here having to be prostitutes to get by, but I don't think Audrey even understands that world and the book did not take enough pains to even describe it. Audrey is an outsider looking in throughout the book so as far as I am concerned the main character could have been male since Audrey being female felt like a gimmick to me. The reason why Audrey even gets tangled up in the Ripper killings are convoluted and then every member of her family starts to become involved. At that point I may have rolled my eyes a few times.
I feel really let down though because the character of Audrey could have been a wonderful heroine if done right. I was intrigued by her parents backstory (too bad we don't get any real details about her mother except here and there) and I wondered how England would react to a I think a half Indian and English woman marrying an Englishman back then. I also wondered how Audrey and her brother were able to go about in society and not have that affecting how people would treat them. We do get a throwaway line here and there about Audrey's mother trying to teach her and her father about their foods and clothing in Indian, but that her brother refused to have anything to do with it because it was messy. I may have said some rude words to myself about not all Indian food required one eating with your hands. And just wearing saris once in a while is not getting in touch with your heritage.
I also thought that the other characters are very underdeveloped. I never got a great sense of Audrey's uncle besides him being eccentric (and that was turned up to a level 10 for this book) her father was obsessive, and her brother had a whole devil may care attitude about things, until he didn't. The character of Thomas was flat and boring and I am actually disappointed that Maniscalo decided that he was a better love interest for her rather than the inspector in the case who honestly seem to like Audrey's abilities as a forensic scientist. Thomas was rude throughout the book and out of nowhere Audrey has feelings for him which is that old romance trope of a woman deciding that a rude alpha dude equals the best love story ever told. I also hope you like to read a lot about Thomas's looks because the book is filled with descriptions of his eyes, hair, regal bearing, etc. I kept hoping that Jack the Ripper would have Thomas as one of his victims, no dice there I am afraid.
The writing is honestly what caused me to just lower the book to two stars. The whole book reads like a modern book that is just taking place in 1888. Audrey's thoughts on women, men, her running around wearing breeches, her apparently leaving home for three weeks to investigate, etc. does not work in a novel taking place in Victorian England. She would have been shunned by every acquaintance, there's no way she would be allowed to go and view crime scenes with people standing by, etc. It was just too much to overlook while reading that drove me nuts. I really wish there had actually been real consequences for Audrey for forging ahead in the "career" she wanted to undertake. Instead most of the book hand-waved this concerns away.
The writing is also not written in the manner in which people would have talked. I am reading "A Study in Scarlet Women right now, and there are some issues here and there, but the dialogue is band on for the time period."
Also for some weird reason, in my e-book version the chapter headings would sometimes be cut off abruptly and moved to the next line. I have no idea if that happened in the hardcover version or not, but I thought I throw that out there for people who may read this electronically.
The one thing I will give the book kudos for is incorporating some of the Ripper letters, and photos of things that Audrey was seeing in this book. However, some photos (women having tea) could have been left out.
The flow was up and down the whole book. We would suddenly skip time periods, scenes, etc. and then Maniscalco would refer to it later on. There was not enough show in this book at all.
The ending was just a setup to the next book in the series and I can honestly say that I will pass on books #2 and #3 unless I read some reviews that show a more interesting story and more realistic view of what Audrey is up to. I did call the killer, but the why behind the murders was just not well thought of at all, and just made no sense from what we knew of other murders.