Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

by Isabel Allende
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
2014 Harper
Hardcopy Edition; 496 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062291400
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda's father, she's reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her-Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco's elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.

When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, discovering, before the police do, that the deaths may be connected. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother's disappearance be linked to the serial killer? Now, with her mother's life on the line, the young detective must solve the most complex mystery she's ever faced before it's too late.

My Thoughts
Ripper is one of those books of which I had high expectations and was left sorely disappointed at the end.  Halfway through the book I was done, but I kept going, hoping that it would pick up, but it never really did.  Why I struggled through it is beyond me; perhaps being an Allende book is what made me do it.  

What I did like about the book is the background stories for the main and secondary characters.  If this was a contemporary fiction novel, those background stories would have a lot more meaning, if there had been a good plot, but in a mystery novel, they bogged down the story until it felt like the whole point of the novel was lost.  However, when you can't seem to discover exactly what the novel is about, you tend to look for something good in the novel, and this is what I drifted towards because as a mystery novel, the rest fell rather flat.  Pretty much as soon as something interesting happened, the author would start to discuss the background story of one or the other of the characters; and while I found this kind of quirky and interesting in the beginning, wondering where this was going, it didn't take long for this 'technique' to get on my nerves.  My thinking quickly turned to, "let's get on to the story, pleeeeease!!"

And that, my dear readers, is pretty much the only thing that endeared me to this novel.  With someone of Allende's talent, I was pretty disappointed in everything this novel had to offer.  Even the writing, which I usually love, felt choppy and the plot was all over the place, with thoughts and ideas that never really connected nor always made sense.  I didn't feel too much connection with the characters, except perhaps Ryan Miller, and even then, the way it was written didn't really allow the reader to empathize with any of them.  I didn't particularly care for Indiana's daughter Amanda, as I thought she was annoying and whiny, and the way she talked about this one guy she wanted to marry just got on my nerves - spoiled and bratty, as if the world should end just because she didn't get what she thought she should.  I am not one to usually write bad reviews as I don't often read past page 50 of a book I don't like, so I don't know what possessed me to do so in this case.  I find it interesting that even two days later, some of the characters were still getting on my nerves. 

The whole premise of the book is about a serial killer who eventually kidnaps Indiana. What follows is a race to identify the killer before Indiana is killed on Easter weekend.  To be honest, the murder aspect of the novel didn't really take a front seat until the very end of the novel as most of it was filled with background stories of the various characters, something which made it very easy to spot the killer right away, at least for me.  While this doesn't usually bother me, and it didn't really here either, so much time and energy was wasted trying to divert the reader in a way that didn't really work.  It just comes down to poor editing I would think.  

Ripper is the latest novel by an author I usually adore, but in this case it fell flat.  This was a novel I struggled to finish and didn't enjoy too much for a variety of reasons; poor editing in terms of plot, characters I wasn't too crazy about, a lack of mystery, and a lack of plot.  Allende, however, is a much better story writer than this, and although this one may not have had the intended effect, I am hoping future novels will have a more interesting story to tell.  While I would be quick to pick up a more contemporary novel from this author, it will be with some trepidation to reach for another of her attempts at a mystery novel.


  1. I've never actually read any of her work. Your reasons for being disappointed are quite understandable.