India and Amanda are mother and daughter; while India is a free-spirit massage therapist, Amanda is a bright young girl with a fascination with the darker side of the human soul. With her grandfather to guide her, Amanda has become part of Ripper, an online group that tries to solve murders. When Amanda begins investigating a group of disparate murders, she begins to wonder if they are all connected, a thought that could possibly have dire consequences that she can’t foresee.
Though it’s framed as a crime novel, Allende boasts her trademark character development and deep storylines in Ripper. It takes time to build, but this exquisite novel is well worth the effort you put into it, as Allende explores relationships and the very nature of human beings.
The first thing you need to know about Ripper: Despite the title, this is not a crime novel. To go into it expecting such a read will mean you’ll leave disappointed. No, as all of Allende’s novels are, this is a character study. It just happens to have a mystery framing up the plot. What this means is that if you’ve enjoyed Allende’s previous novels, the time she takes to build and explore her characters, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, well then, this probably isn’t the book for you.
If you’re still here, that means you’re at least still considering Ripper. And let me say, that’s a great choice. This book is engaging and well-written; it takes time to build, starting out slowly as the reader gets to know each one of the characters. They are connected in myriad ways, and Allende takes her time exploring these relationships. One of the most interesting characters is Ryan, a former Navy SEAL who had just about given up on life, until the war dog he had been in battle with was retired and brought back home. He fought for custody, and together, they have forged a new life. It’s heartwarming, but also brutal at times; Allende isn’t afraid to dive into the horrors of PTSD and exactly what Ryan has to go through. He’s a fascinating character, but one among many. This isn’t a book where you receive a quick primer on each character and then dive into the action. No, readers receive lengthy backstories, the tale of each of these people and how they became to be a part of this larger, overarching story. You’re either going to love this reveling in the character or you’re going to find it tedious. Personally, I enjoyed each and every second.
The crime subplot of Ripper does become important towards the end of the book. It’s clear that the novel is building towards something, and it’s Amanda’s group that ties it all together. Suddenly the mood of the book shifts, becoming at once more tense and suspenseful. We know these characters now, and so the endgame can begin. It’s well done and serves to bring the narrative to a close. Readers are left bereft, yet satisfied, as the last pages are turned.
If you love character-driven novels that take their time to really get into the heads of each and every person in the novel, then you’ll love Ripper. By the end of the book, each person in this novel felt like an old friend. It’s another well-written novel from Allende, full of description and vivid settings. While thriller-seekers should look elsewhere, those looking for a satisfying, slower read will likely revel in this book.
Other books by Isabel Allende: