The Name of the Star (Shades of London Series #1)

The Name of the Star (Shades of London Series #1)

4.3 184
by Maureen Johnson

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The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold

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The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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
Kate Mitchell
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 spirits—with 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
Kirkus Reviews

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)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Shades of London Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
HL710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

If you live around New Orleans and they think a hurricane might be coming, all hell breaks loose. Not among the residents, really, but on the news. The news wants us to worry desperately about hurricanes. In my town, Bénouville, Louisiana (pronounced locally as Ben-ah-VEEL; population 1,700), hurricane preparations generally include buying more beer, and ice to keep that beer cold when the power goes out. We do have a neighbor with a two-man rowboat lashed on top of the porch roof, all ready to go if the water rises—but that’s Billy Mack, and he started his own religion in the garage, so he’s got a lot more going on than just an extreme concern for personal safety.

Anyway, Bénouville is an unstable place, built on a swamp. Everyone who lives there accepts that it was a terrible place to build a town, but since it’s there, we just go on living in it. Every fifty years or so, everything but the old hotel gets wrecked by a flood or a hurricane—and the same bunch of lunatics comes back and builds new stuff. Many generations of the Deveaux family have lived in beautiful downtown Bénouville, largely because there is no other part to live in. I love where I’m from, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the kind of town that makes you a little crazy if you never leave, even for a little while.

My parents were the only ones in the family to leave to go to college and then law school. They became law professors at Tulane, in New Orleans. They had long since decided that it would be good for all three of us to spend a little time living outside of Louisiana. Four years ago, right before I started high school, they applied to do a year’s sabbatical teaching American law at the University of Bristol in England. We made an agreement that I could take part in the decision about where I would spend that sabbatical year—it would be my senior year. I said I wanted to go to school in London.

Bristol and London are really far apart, by English standards. Bristol is in the middle of the country and far to the west, and London is way down south. But really far apart in England is only a few hours on the train. And London is London. So I had decided on a school called Wexford, located in the East End of London. The three of us were all going to fly over together and spend a few days in London, then I would go to school and my parents would go to Bristol, and I would travel back and forth every few weeks.
But then there was a hurricane warning, and everyone freaked out, and the airlines wiped the schedule. The hurricane teased everyone and rolled around the Gulf before turning into a rainstorm, but by that point our flight had been canceled and everything was a mess for a few days. Eventually, the airline managed to find one empty seat on a flight to New York, and another empty seat on a flight to London from there. Since I was scheduled to be at Wexford before my parents needed to be in Bristol, I got the seat and went by myself.

Which was fine, actually. It was a long trip—three hours to New York, two hours wandering the airport before taking a six-hour flight to London overnight—but I still liked it. I was awake all night on the flight watching English television and listening to all the English accents on the plane.

I made my way through the duty-free area right after customs, where they try to get you to buy a few last-minute gallons of perfume and crates of cigarettes. There was a man waiting for me just beyond the doors. He had completely white hair and wore a polo shirt with the name Wexford stitched on the breast. A shock of white chest hair popped out at the collar, and as I approached him, I caught the distinctive, spicy smell of men’s cologne. Lots of cologne.

“Aurora?” he asked.

“Rory,” I corrected him. I never use the name Aurora. It was my great-grandmother’s name, and it was dropped on me as kind of a family obligation. Not even my parents use it.

“I’m Mr. Franks. I’ll be taking you to Wexford. Let me help you with those.”

I had two incredibly large suitcases, both of which were heavier than I was and were marked with big orange tags that said HEAVY. I needed to bring enough to live for nine months. Nine months in a place that had cold weather. So while I felt justified in bringing these extremely big and heavy bags, I didn’t want someone who looked like a grandfather pulling them, but he insisted.

 “You picked quite the day to arrive, you did,” he said, grunting as he dragged the suitcases along. “Big news this morning. Some nutter’s gone and pulled a Jack the Ripper.”

I figured “pulled a Jack the Ripper” was one of those English expressions I’d need to learn. I’d been studying them online so I wouldn’t get confused when people started talking to me about “quid” and “Jammy Dodgers” and things like that. This one had not crossed my electronic path.

“Oh,” I said. “Sure.”

He led me through the crowds of people trying to get into the elevators that took us up to the parking lot. As we left the building and walked into the lot, I felt the first blast of cool breeze. The London air smelled surprisingly clean and fresh, maybe a little metallic. The sky was an even, high gray. For August, it was ridiculously cold, but all around me I saw people in shorts and T-shirts. I was shivering in my jeans and sweatshirt, and I cursed my flip-flops—which some stupid site told me were good to wear for security reasons. No one mentioned they make your feet freeze on the plane and in England, where they mean something different when they say “summer.”

We got to the school van, and Mr. Franks loaded the bags in. I tried to help, I really did, but he just said no, no, no. I was almost certain he was going to have a heart attack, but he survived.

“In you get,” he said. “Door’s open.”

I remembered to get in on the left side, which made me feel very clever for someone who hadn’t slept in twenty-four hours. Mr. Franks wheezed for a minute once he got into the driver’s seat. I cracked my window to release some of the cologne into the wild.

 “It’s all over the news.” Wheeze, wheeze. “Happened up near the Royal Hospital, right off the Whitechapel Road. Jack the Ripper, of all things. Mind you, tourists love old Jack. Going to cause lots of excitement, this. Wexford’s in Jack the Ripper territory.”

He switched on the radio. The news station was on, and I listened as he drove us down the spiral exit ramp.

“. . . thirty-one-year-old Rachel Belanger, a commercial filmmaker with a studio on Whitechapel Road. Authorities say that she was killed in a manner emulating the first Jack the Ripper murder of 1888 . . .

Well, at least that cleared up what “pulling a Jack the Ripper” meant.

“. . . body found on Durward Street, just after four this morning. In 1888, Durward Street was called Bucks Row. Last night’s victim was found in the same location and position as Mary Ann Nichols, the first Ripper victim, with very similar injuries. Chief Inspector Simon Cole of Scotland Yard gave a brief statement saying that while there were similarities between this murder and the murder of Mary Ann Nichols on August 31, 1888, it is premature to say that this is anything other than a coincidence. For more on this, we go to senior correspondent Lois Carlisle . . .

Mr. Franks barely missed the walls as he wove the car down the spiral.

“. . . Jack the Ripper struck on four conventionally agreed upon dates in 1888: August 31, September 8, the ‘Double Event’ of September 30—so called because there were two murders in the space of under an hour—and November 9. No one knows what became of the Ripper or why he stopped on that date . . .

“Nasty business,” Mr. Franks said as we reached the exit. “Wexford is right in Jack’s old hunting grounds. We’re just five minutes from the Whitechapel Road. The Jack the Ripper tours come past all the time. I imagine there’ll be twice as many now.”

We took a highway for a while, and then we were suddenly in a populated area—long rows of houses, Indian restaurants, fish-and-chip shops. Then the roads got narrower and more crowded and we had clearly entered the city without my noticing. We wound along the south side of the Thames, then crossed it, all of London stretched around us.

I had seen a picture of Wexford a hundred times or more. I knew the history. Back in the mid-1800s, the East End of London was very poor. Dickens, pickpockets, selling children for bread, that kind of thing. Wexford was built by a charity. They bought all the land around a small square and built an entire complex. They constructed a home for women, a home for men, and a small Gothic revival church—everything necessary to provide food, shelter, and spiritual guidance. All the buildings were attractive, and they put some stone benches and a few trees in the tiny square so there was a pleasant atmosphere. Then they filled the buildings with poor men, women, and children and made them all work fifteen hours a day in the factories and workhouses that they also built around the square.

Somewhere around 1920, someone realized this was all kind of horrible, and the buildings were sold off. Someone had the bright idea that these Gothic and Georgian buildings arranged around a square kind of looked like a school, and bought them. The workhouses became classroom buildings. The church eventually became the refectory. The buildings were all made of brownstone or brick at a time when space in the East End came cheap, so they were large, with big windows and peaks and chimneys silhouetted against the sky.

 “This is your building here,” Mr. Franks said as the car bumped along a narrow cobblestone path. It was Hawthorne, the girls’ dorm. The word WOMEN was carved in bas-relief over the doorway. Standing right under this, as proof, was a woman. She was short, maybe just five feet tall, but broad. Her face was a deep, flushed red, and she had big hands, hands you’d imagine could make really big meatballs or squeeze the air out of tires. She had a bob haircut that was almost completely square, and was wearing a plaid dress made of hearty wool. Something about her suggested that her leisure activities included wrestling large woodland animals and banging bricks together.

As I got out of the van she called, “Aurora!” in a penetrating voice that could cause a small bird to fall dead out of the sky.

“Call me Claudia,” she boomed. “I’m housemistress of Hawthorne. Welcome to Wexford.”

“Thanks,” I said, my ears still ringing. “But it’s Rory.”

“Rory. Of course. Everything all right, then? Good flight?”

“Great, thank you.” I hurried to the back of the van and tried to get to the bags before Mr. Franks broke his spine in three places hauling them out. Flip-flops and cobblestones do not go well together, however, especially after a rain, when every slight indentation is filled with cold water. My feet were soaked, and I was sliding and stumbling over the stones. Mr. Franks beat me to the back of the car, and grunted as he yanked the bags out.

“Mr. Franks will bring those inside,” Claudia said. “Take them to room twenty-seven, please, Franks.”

“Righto,” he wheezed.

The rain started to patter down lightly as Claudia opened the door, and I entered my new home for the first time.

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Meet the Author

Maureen Johnson ( is the author of seven young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Let It Snow. She lives in New York City.

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