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Starred review from June 27, 2016
In this grisly fantasy from Kirby (the Dark Gravity Sequence), the year is 1888 and London’s slums are soon to be terrorized by Leather Apron (later known as Jack the Ripper), who murders prostitutes in the most gruesome manner possible. In a nearby East End hospital resides a monster of a gentler sort: Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who has a new maid, 17-year-old Evelyn Fallows. Some would label Evelyn a monster as well, her jaw destroyed by phosphorus necrosis from working in a match factory. Evelyn is initially repulsed by Merrick’s deformity, but she soon recognizes him as a gentle soul. After the murders commence, the ghosts of Leather Apron’s victims begin to appear in Merrick’s room. Concerned about the effect of these monstrous apparitions on Merrick’s health, Evelyn ventures into the slums in an attempt to put the suffering ghosts to rest. Evelyn—all grit, anger, and distrust—is a complex and engaging character, the slums and slang of Victorian-era London are carefully delineated, and the eventual revelation of Leather Apron’s identity and fate will leave readers gasping. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary.
July 1, 2016
A down-on-her-luck white girl with facial scars seeks safety (both physical and metaphysical) in a story framed by two unrelated true events that occurred in 1888: the Jack the Ripper murders and the decline of Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man. Evelyn Fallow knows a degrading death is the best she can hope for if she can't escape "the godforsaken East End." A stint working in a match factory with its poisonous fumes left her with only a partial jaw: the deadly phosphorus necrosis would have killed her without surgery. Evelyn's offered a place as a maid for Mr. Merrick. She considers herself unacceptably ugly, but her repulsion at her client's features is extreme, and initially she stays only because the alternative is grinding poverty in the streets. Nonetheless, Mr. Merrick, a white man with an unknown disease, is fundamentally an extremely good person, and Evelyn's quality of life is high--or it would be, if she and Mr. Merrick weren't tormented by ghosts, hauntings that increase as London's serial killings worsen. Luscious period-appropriate prose adds flavor: "Somehow, the serenity of his syncope rendered his features less monstrous." Unfortunately, the trope in which a profoundly disabled character for whom death might be "a kind of mercy" acts as a lesson for a character, in this case Evelyn, with presumably more to live for is a stale one. A lovely, suspenseful, lyrical, imperfect paranormal mystery. (Historical paranormal. 13-15)
COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
July 1, 2016
Gr 7 Up-In 1888, London is in the grip of a monster: Jack the Ripper is stalking and murdering women in East End's Whitechapel area. Young Evelyn Fallow-whose disfigured face makes her a monster to some-has just been hired as a maid at London Hospital for Joseph Merrick (also known as the Elephant Man). Though he is also considered a monstrosity by many, Evelyn discovers a gentle, compassionate soul in Mr. Merrick. These two find friendship and understanding in each other. But when the murders continue, the duo are visited nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper's victims. As the body count climbs, so do the cast of apparitions, who clearly want something. Mr. Merrick's fragile health begins to decline as the pair face these spirits night after night. Will Evelyn risk leaving the safe haven of the hospital to save her dear friend? This historical fiction blends horror with mystery and results in wonderfully crafted storytelling with strong, well-drawn characters. Kirby carefully balances the gruesome with a well-written, sensitive treatment of what could easily be lurid. VERDICT A great read for fans of history, true crime, or ghost stories.-Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta
Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
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