Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha.  Penguin, 2012.

All of his life, Carver Young has only known the orphanage he lives in.  It’s there that he met Delia, his closest friend, and Finn, his worst enemy.  It’s also the place he learned skills like picking locks and not being seen or heard, perfect skills for detecting.

Carver’s life has always been a mystery, and it’s one he’d like to solve.  Who was his father?  When hacking into his file, all he stole was a piece of paper dated July 18, 1889 with words like “boss,” and “knife,” and a description of Carver as an eight year old boy, including a unique mole he has. 

But now, it’s the year 1895 and the orphanage is closing down. Fourteen-year-old Carver has two options:  become adopted immediately by the wealthy clamoring to this “Prospective Parents Day” (mostly because the young police commissioner of New York City, Theodore Roosevelt, is there) become a street rat, selling papers or cleaning offal.   And this night is where Carver meets his fate – a Pinkteron Detective by the name of Hawking….

Carver isn’t sure what to make of this mysterious and surly man who has adopted him, but the more time he spends around Hawking, the more intriguing his situation becomes and the closer Carver gets to the mystery surrounding his father.  The New Pinkertons headquarters, carved deep under bustling New York City, has all the tools and people Carver needs to find out more about his father, and when he realizes who his father is, the more horror and bloodshed arrive at his doorstep.  Jack the Ripper is looking for his long-lost son….

Petrucha knows the Gilded Age and New York City well.  Not only his is novel a compelling and interesting mystery, but the scenery he writes about as well as the characters and inventions will take the reader back to that most interesting era of the late 1800’s.  Jack the Ripper has left the foggy streets of London to go head-to-head with Theodore Roosevelt, but will macabre cunning or intelligent bravado win?  Petrucha takes the reader to the very of the novel for it all to play out.  Readers may think they’re reading steampunk, but the author bases most everything on reality, including the New Pinkertons headquarters, on fact.  Of course there are a few exaggerations, but they work well in the book.  The end of the novel has a character and gadget glossary, which gives historical accuracy on everything Petrucha refers to.  This is an excellent book that will fascinate readers of both historical fiction and mystery fiction.  Highly recommended.

Common Core/Non Fiction Pair:  Secret Subway: the fascinating tale of an amazing feat of engineering.  Martin Sandler, author.  An illustrated overview of the history of New York's first subway that discusses why it was necessary to build, Alfred Beach's vision for the system and efforts to see it through, resistance to its construction, and other related topics.

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