When Rory’s parents get work at the University of Bristol, she convinces them to let her go to boarding school in London. Used to living in a Louisiana town (or swamp) where everyone knows everyone, she can’t wait to get to the big city. But her arrival coincides with the start of brutal murders in the East End, mimicking those of Jack the Ripper. As Rippermania spreads across London once more, the police are at a dead end. They have CCTV footage of the crime scenes but they show no suspects.

It’s one of the few books that actually manages to nail an American teen in the UK. Rory is aware of the things that she should and shouldn’t say and there is even a whole paragraph on explaining the difference between England, Britain and UK. There’s lot of little funny titbits poking fun at habits from both sides of the Atlantic and it’s always raining. I love Maureen Johnson a little bit for this.

For the most part, the teenagers just happen to be located in the centre of all the crimes rather than them running off and getting involved in an unrealistic manner. The school, Wexford, is a sort of boarding sixth form college, which explains away some of the leniencies. It’s only when Rory sees a strange man on the night of one of the murders that she becomes a witness and things start to seem a little weird. For what might sound like a straight young adult thriller, has a supernatural twist. I will leave it at that (or you can read my review of the sequel, The Madness Underneath, tomorrow).

Gripping, funny and just the right amount of clever, with characters you’ll adore. Maureen Johnson has just elevated herself to a must read author. This is exactly the kind of young adult writing I want to be reading.

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