Monday, February 17, 2014


Ripper by Isabel Allende
HarperCollins: 1/28/2014
Hardcover, 496 pages

ISBN-13: 9780062291400

The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Though their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda's father, she's reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco's elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.
While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature—as is her father, the SF PD's deputy chief of homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior Amanda is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and to Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.
When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, probing hints and deductions that elude the police department. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother's disappearance have something to do with the series of deaths? Now, with her mother's life on the line, Amanda must solve the most complex mystery she's ever faced before it's too late.
My Thoughts:

Isabel Allende devotes her talent to a murder mystery and investigation in her latest book, Ripper, a recommended novel.

Ripper opens with the ominous warning from Amanda Martin concerning Indiana Jackson, her mother: "Mom is still alive, but she's going to be murdered at midnight on Good Friday..."  Amanda and her mother are complete opposites in many ways but she shares a strong bond with Indiana, a holistic healer, and even more so with her grandfather, Blake Jackson. Amanda's father is Deputy Chief Bob Martin. Amanda plays an online role playing game called Ripper with 4 friends and her grandfather. 

After Amanda's astrologer godmother, Celeste Roko, predicts a bloodbath in San Francisco, the murder of Ed Stanton occurs. Amanda and her grandfather mark this as the first murder in the coming bloodbath and transform the online Ripper from a game into a criminal investigation as a series of murders take place in San Francisco. Since Amanda's father, Bob Martin, is leading the murder investigations, Amanda and her grandfather Blake have unprecedented access to all manner of inside information on the investigation from the police, which certainly will stretch believability for most crime aficionados. Feeling much younger than 17, Amanda repeatedly reminded me of Alan Bradley's young female sleuth, Flavia de Luce. 

Allende extensively covers the three months leading up to the threat to Indiana's life while thoroughly and exhaustively analyzing the eccentric cast of main characters.  All of this results in making Ripper a rather unconventional murder mystery, but certainly a very enjoyable mystery. We are privy to a vast amount of inside information about many of the characters. Having never read Allende to this point (don't judge - I have some issues with magic realism) I have to guess that this is Allende's preferred way to establish characterization. It's just not the norm for this genre. 

I felt at a certain point that I was just being given too much superfluous information and it was slowing the pace down. Part of the thrill in reading mysteries for me is the fast pace and the slow, miserly release of information. However, the other part of enjoyment I find in mysteries is guessing who-dun-it and Allende did an excellent job embedding the killer into the story, although part of that is simple due to the sheer volume of information about people.

In the end, while I enjoyed her writing and the descriptions of her characters, her writing style didn't quite work for me in a mystery. I can't fault the book for her writing, though, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the HarperCollins for review purposes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the writing even though you weren't a huge fan of the mystery aspect. Thanks for being on the tour!