First line: "'Mom is still alive, but she's going to be murdered at midnight on Good Friday,' Amanda Martín told the Deputy Chief, who didn't even think to question the girl since she'd already proved she knew more than he and all his colleagues in Homicide put together."
Amanda Martín is the teenage daughter of Deputy Chief Bob Martín. A bit of an outcast among her peers, she established an online role-playing group with a group of similarly outcast teens around the world. They are fascinated with crime and play a game called "Ripper" in which they attempt to solve fictional nineteenth century crimes.
Amanda's mother, Indiana Jackson, is a holistic healer who requires little for happiness. She's spiritual and very un-materialistic. She's also in love with a man who comes from great wealth. They've carried on an affair for years and Indiana is happy with their relationship as is. She doesn't depend on her lover and he doesn't control her.
When Indiana's friend--a famous astrologer and Amanda's godmother--Celeste Roko predicted a "bloodbath" in San Francisco, Amanda decided to put Celeste's "powers" to the test. Unlike her mother, Amanda was a mystical cynic. She wanted to prove Celeste wrong. So she suggested the Ripper players investigate the true crimes in San Francisco. And their investigation became far more than they ever bargained for.
Ripper is a mystery that mimics the terrain of the city in which it takes place: winding, rising, falling, cloudy, clear, beautiful, mystical and unpredictable. The plot consists of a series of very dark murders leading to an equally dark conclusion. But weaved into that are the lives and relationships of Amanda, her family and her friends. There's a constant sense of hope and possibility.
The team of Ripper players is a fascinating dynamic. The teens are spread out around the world and each have their own quirks or disabilities or differences. But they blend their strengths to work effectively together. Throw in the element of Amanda's grandfather, Blake Jackson, who participates in the game to be able to spend time with his granddaughter and you have a utopian microcosm. A prototype for Peace: a vast array of people who can see past their differences and irregularities and focus on commonalities, shared interests and strengths in order to do good.
I will admit that I found it a little difficult to believe that the deputy chief of police would be so willing to sharing investigation details and files with Amanda and her grandfather, but if you look past that, the plot is fun and engaging.
The development of the characters and their relationships enriches the story but it also has a slowing effect for the pace. This isn't an especially fast-paced plot, but the nature of the novel doesn't demand great speed and nothing is lost by the slower momentum. The readers' connections with the characters are what will keep them devotedly connected to the end.
Ripper is available from Harper in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062291400). It is also available from Harper Audio as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 978-0062311016), narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Edoardo Ballerini. I think I'd like to try to get ahold of this one and listen to his interpretation of the story. Here's a short excerpt:
My review kicks off the TLC Book Tour for Ripper. Tomorrow you can find out what Book Club Classics has to say about their reading experience with Ripper. Check out the full tour schedule here.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.