Johnson's trademark sense of humor serves to counterbalance some grisly murders in this page-turner, which opens her Shades of London series. Rory Deveaux trades the sultry heat of Louisiana for the academic rigors of a London boarding school, only to arrive in the middle of a spate of murders that echo those committed by Jack the Ripper. As one mutilated body after another turns up, Johnson (Scarlett Fever) amplifies the story's mysteries with smart use of and subtle commentary on modern media shenanigans and London's infamously extensive surveillance network. With the sordidness of Criminal Minds and the goofiness of Ghostbusters, it's a fresh paranormal story. Rory is a protagonist with confidence and a quick wit, and her new friends are well-developed and distinctive—both the "normal" ones and those who, like Rory, can see ghosts—and Wexford, Rory's new school, is an appropriately atmospheric backdrop to this serial murder mystery. Rory's budding romance with a classmate takes a backseat to more pressing (and deadly) concerns, but readers looking for nonstop fun, action, and a little gore have come to the right place. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
Over 100 years after the Jack the Ripper murders occurred in London, the violence and the mystery of the acts continue to consume people's imaginations. When Rory arrives in London to attend school for a year, the first copycat Ripper murder has just occurred and Ripper Mania is beginning to take hold of the city. Coming from the New Orleans area, Rory finds herself in the center of a new world, forced to make new friends, quickly adjust to a new school and new culture, and thrust into the center of the new Ripper murders. Johnson has written an intriguing, thrilling mystery that presents fascinating characters, a hundred year old mystery with an intriguing twist, and makes the reader wish they were in the middle of London with the characters. While the focus is on the Jack the Ripper murders, the novel does not disclose extremely gruesome details, but does describe the murders, both current and historical, in some detail. This gripping novel will appeal to history buffs as well as fans of horror and mystery fiction. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
When Rory Deveraux's parents take a sabbatical to England during her senior year, she chooses to spend it at boarding school in London. But it just happens to be the same time someone is copying Jack the Ripper's famous 1888 murders near the very school Rory attends. The more London and all of England get swept up in "Rippermania," the fewer leads the police have. But then Rory sees someone. Is he the new Ripper? Why did no one else see him? And what will happen to Rory now that she's the only witness? As Rory's journey takes her above and below modern London in this exciting read, it's easy to get swept up with her. From romance to mystery, humor to suspense, and everywhere in between, Johnson's story of an American teen with amazing capabilities is a worthwhile read. Reviewer: Kate Mitchell
VOYA - Sean Rapacki
Readers looking for a new supernatural thriller series with a touch of romance would be well advised to check out this title, the first in a planned trilogy. Johnson is a talented author of many popular works for teens, and she definitely brings her skills to sharp focus in this tale of Rory, a contemporary teen from New Orleans who travels to London to attend school and ends up getting involved with a secret team of police who investigate crimes and incidents involving ghosts. She soon discovers that ghosts are real, but that real ghosts are mostly harmless spiritswith the notable exception of the spirit currently terrorizing London by recreating the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Johnson has done her Ripper homework, and clearly has fun transplanting the gruesome crimes to a detailed depiction of modern London. Although the author mines some familiar tropes here, like snooty boarding schools, ghost busting, and seeing dead people, she does so with enough flair that nothing seems tired or recycled. Best of all, although some threads are left open for the rest of the series, the main story is concluded thoroughly enough to let this novel stand on its own, something that is rare in the series-laden literary landscape of today. Reviewer: Sean Rapacki
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Rory, 17, leaves rural Louisiana and enrolls in a British boarding school. Her arrival coincides with the emergence of a new terror in London: a murderer mimicking the 1888 grisly killings by Jack the Ripper. As she reports to officials her knowledge of events leading up to these gruesome deaths, she reaches the startling realization the she can see individuals not observed by others or picked up with electronic surveillance: Rory can see ghosts. She recognizes the one who poses as a modern-day Ripper and who is responsible for the horrific murders spreading across London. His plan intensifies and Rory becomes his target, with an announcement that the killings will continue until she surrenders to him. Employing a terminus, a device used to eliminate lingering ghosts, and a few friends who, like Rory, possess "the sight," she goes deep into the London underground to "terminate" this modern-day Ripper. While she is successful, there is obviously more to tell in this planned trilogy. This savvy teen, who uses her considerable smarts and powers against the ghosts, will return to battle all who haunt her world. Johnson uses a deft hand, applying the right amount of romance and teen snarkiness to relieve the story's building tension. Departing from her previous works, she turns paranormal on its head, mocking vampires and werewolves while creating ghosts that are both realistic and creepy. A real page-turner.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
A clever, scary, little-bit-sexy beginning to a series that takes Louisiana teen Rory to London.
Rory's parents are teaching for a year at the University of Bristol, so she gets to spend senior year at Wexford, a London boarding school. She recounts her story, from mining her colorful relatives for stories to wow her English classmates, coming to grips with heavier course loads and making a couple of fairly adorable friends. But London is soon caught up in fear, as a copycat killer has begun recreating Jack the Ripper's bloody murders in gruesome detail. Johnson fearlessly takes readers from what seems like a cool innocent-abroad-with-iPod story to supernatural thriller, when Rory sees a man no one else does on campus the night of one of those murders. Enter a trio of young folks who are ghost hunters of a very specific sort. The tension ramps up exquisitely among cups of tea, library visits and the London Underground. The explosive ending is genuinely terrifying but never loses the wit, verve and humor that Rory carries with her throughout. While this tale does conclude, it does so with a complicated revelation that will have readers madly eager for the next installment.
Nice touches about friendship, kissing, research and the way a boy's curls might touch his collar fully integrate with a clear-eyed look at a pitiless killer. (Supernatural thriller. 12-18)