The Ripper’s Shadow

Written by Laura Joh Rowland
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

Sarah Bain, taught by her now-missing activist father, is a photographer in Whitechapel, London, in 1888. Struggling in her profession, she takes erotic photos of prostitutes—which sell well—and lives an isolated existence. Since a child, her mother warned her never to trust anyone, especially men. After two of her models are found brutally murdered, Sarah is afraid the killer saw her photos and seeks these women out for torture. Sarah feels responsible to track down the perpetrator, now called the Ripper. By chance she meets a handsome nobleman and a street urchin with their own troubles, but they team up to protect the prostitutes and stop the Ripper. A constable, who Sarah is attracted to, is set on sidelining her investigation.

Sarah is an interesting and determined character. Scarred by her childhood, she finally flourishes with her newfound friends, who include a Jewish couple and an actress—a disparate group whose members learn to care about each other.

Author Rowland speculates on the identity of Jack the Ripper, which keeps the tale intriguing. Customs of the Victorian era ground the reader in place. One suspect spills information to strangers, and in front of women, too easily for this time period. The escapades through London can get madcap and melodramatic, but that doesn’t deter from the story.It’s hard to believe this professed shy woman jumps into danger so quickly, but I’m glad she does. The novel moves at a fast pace, and mystery fans will enjoy the ride.