The Name of the Star is written by Maureen Johnson and was published in 2011 by Penguin. It is the first book in a series called The Shades of London.Her website can be found here.
“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 work of 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 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, what is he planning to do about her?”
“I wandered around the empty building for a while, eventually ending up in the common room. This would probably be the only time I had this room to myself, so I flopped on the sofa right in front of the television and turned it on. It was tuned to BBC One, and the news had just started. The first thing I noticed was the huge banner at the bottom of the screen that read RIPPER-LIFE MURDER IN EAST END. As I watched, through half-open eyes, I saw shots of the blocked-off street where the body was found. I saw footage of fluorescent-vested police officers holding back camera crews…
The words NEW RIPPER? flashed across the screen over a panoramic shot of Big Ben and Parliament. It was as if the news itself wanted to reassure me. Even Jack the Ripper himself had reappeared as part of the greeting committee.
“You don’t say much, do you?” Jerome asked me.
No one in my entire life had ever said this about me.
“You don’t know me yet,” I said.
“Rory was telling me she lives in a swamp,” Charlotte said.
“That’s right,” I said, turning up my accent a little. “These are the first shoes I’ve ever owned. They sure do pinch my feet.”
Warnings: Murder, violence, kissing.
Recommended Age Range: 15+
What I Liked:
For someone who said they don’t like supernaturals that much, I sure have been reading a lot of them. And this one, like Frost and to a greater degree Between, is a very good combination of supernatural/mystery. Rory is pleasantly sarcastic and witty and I laughed out loud at several points during the narrative. There is good banter and good tension between the characters and the antagonist is appropriately creepy and menacing. The concept behind the plot is well-developed, if a bit sketchy at points (more on that in the next section). The original Jack the Ripper story is explained clearly and concisely for those who may not know much about it.
What I Didn’t Like:
First of all, the ending was very disappointing. It was quite clearly a set-up for the next book in the series. It was confusing and I didn’t think it was necessary to end the book that way. It would have been a perfectly fine stand-alone novel if it hadn’t been for the last page.
Jerome and Rory’s relationship just seemed very contrived and flat. I’m not sure what the purpose of it was, unless it was to demonstrate the conflict between Rory’s school/normal/regular life and her outside/abnormal/irregular life.
A few of the plot details at the end were very murky and confusing to me. I’m sure that’s because it was the first in a series, but I felt that some things could have been explained more.
Nitpicky: This is all me, but I had a really hard time telling Charlotte and Claudia apart for no apparent reason except that they both have similar names and are in roles of leadership.
The Name of the Star is a thrilling supernatural murder mystery with just a few wobbles, such as plot confusion, seemingly pointless relationships, and a disappointing/obvious “let’s throw in a new question/cliffhanger to confuse/annoy readers until the next book” ending. In my opinion, Between is a better mystery and a better book, but The Name of the Star is very good regardless.
Coming Up Next: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld on Friday, then a two-week break as I will be on vacation.