Boy was I excited about this book. Thriller + Maureen Johnson + London setting = this is a GREAT idea. Right? Right. Plus, I wish you could see how the cover is a little bit iridescent so that it looks just like a creepy, foggy, ghostly street. When the book arrived in the library I practically sprinted to go get it. Some days, the library just feels like the best place on earth, doesn’t it? I skipped home with my book and I read it, just like that. I gobbled it up. Honestly.
What’s not fabulous about Maureen Johnson’s books? Um… nothing as far as I can tell. Her characters are funny and clever, but not so much that you want to smack them upside the head for being unbelievable. Her concepts are always intriguing and The Name of the Star is no exception. Louisiana native Rory Deveaux ends up in London to attend private school because her professor parents get jobs for a year in Bristol. Unluckily for Rory, she arrives on the very day that a copycat Ripper-type killer begins a series of brutal murders. Soon the whole city gets swept up in the drama and the terror of the grisly crimes, and it seems that nobody has seen anything that could lead the police to find the murderer. That is until Rory sees a mysterious man who turns out to be the prime suspect. What’s strange is that her roommate, who was with her at the time, saw nothing. This inexplicable fact leads Rory to learn about the secret ghost police of London, and pulls her straight into the killer’s twisted plan.
Of course I enjoyed the excitement of the plot. Johnson finds room for humour in what is in places a pretty gory and scary tale. I particularly liked how she builds up the idea of the “Rippermania” that overtakes London. At one point in the story on one of the nights when the whole city knows that a murder is scheduled to take place, everybody is in front of their televisions watching the Ripper reports, waiting for it to happen in order to see it unfold “live.” It was interesting to think about how the media in Johnson’s narrative capitalizes on the terror to create a weird form of entertainment, and just about everyone is ready to participate. Could this happen? Probably. I think that the media’s role in reporting crime would be a complex discussion topic for a group reading this book. I won’t give away any of the cool plot points, but let me say that I like the creativity of the supernatural element Johnson imagines. There’s just enough introduced that you’re eager to catch up with whatever happens in the next installment. Fun and freaky and atmospheric.
The Name of the Star is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.