Monday, October 31, 2011

Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson

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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 world of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon “Rippermania” takes a hold of the 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 can see him.  Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man.  So why can only Rory see him?  And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her?

In this edge-of-your-set 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.

I have this horrible thing where I actually don’t mind spoilers too much.  Sometimes I can’t stand the anticipation so I feel justified in finding out what happens before I even get to it just to placate my curiosity.  With Name of the Star, I found myself doing the opposite.  For once I made myself wait and go through the motions and experience the events as they unfolded. 

Rory as a Louisiana transplant in London is a fun, quirky character in contrast to most of the more reserved English characters she encounters.  She’s a bit out of place but that makes her all the more likable.  Rory doesn’t seem to comprehend the significance of the Ripper-like murders taking place until one happens by her school.  This is when her life and that of the Ripper intersect and then all hell breaks loose.  The Ripper takes a particular shine to Rory and soon she finds herself embroiled in not only the Ripper’s morbid intentions but also in London’s secret police.  The mystery deepens and becomes more dangerous as more crimes are committed and cryptic messages are revealed.

London as a backdrop is simply amazing.  I enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s tour through the London streets and neighborhoods and the many “English” things that Rory was experiencing for the first time.  She was drinking tea so much that I found myself doing it as well. No complaints here – I love tea.  And London’s long and rich history lends itself very well for the mystery told in NOTS.  I also liked how Johnson incorporated the events as told through other random people’s points of view and tied them all together.  All those eerie moments definitely give you a sense that what’s happening is far bigger than just Rory.  Her friends at school, her roommates, Jazza and Boo are delightful characters.  I especially liked Boo who I picture as The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi’s character from Bend It Like Beckham.  When you read the book and read how she talks, you’ll know what I mean.  She helps ease some of the tension that builds as the mystery progresses and provides a good shoulder for Rory to lean on.

I won’t say much else because that would mean giving away too many details.  This really was a fun mystery – suspenseful and quite creepy at times and I was thankful for something different.  I think Maureen Johnson did a fantastic job with the historical details.  Jack the Ripper will always hold everyone’s fascination no matter how graphic the nature of his crimes were.  While the absolute truth about who he was may never be discovered, I think people will always experience an uneasy mix of awe and repulsion for him.  I’m sure after reading this, some people will interested in learning a bit more about him themselves.  Name Of The Star is the first in the Shades of London series so there’s much more that Rory has yet to show us!

~ Bel

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