Book Review: The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson

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 Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

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 walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (from

The Name Of The Star was a book I was really looking forward to reading. I’ve not read many Ripper themed books in the past, but like most am intrigued by the most infamous murder story in history. It sounded like the ideal autumn book to curl up with on a windy night and after reading it I can confirm that this should indeed be on your Halloween reading list. It’s atmospheric, creepy, chilling and tense with a whole new spin on both the paranormal and the Jack The Ripper mystery. 

I have to be honest, I didn’t really read any synopsis or other reviews on this book before starting and presumed it was historical (I think the cover also lead me to that assumption) but this book is very much set in modern times. American teen, Rory moves to a boarding school in London just as a copycat Ripper serial killer starts replicating the famous murders of the late Nineteenth century. While this wasn’t really what I was expecting, I found myself engrossed in Maureen Johnson’s characters and writing straight away. I loved seeing London from Rory’s point of view which was extremely believable and at times funny. I’ve read books in the past where this can seem patronising but definitely didn’t feel it was the case here. I also loved the fact it was set in a boarding school, because well who doesn’t love a boarding school story? I still haven’t forgiven my parents for not sending me to one all those years ago *sigh*

But of course it’s the mystery surrounding the murders that make this book gripping. I had to know what was happening and who the Ripper was. Again, the fact I paid little attention to the synopsis of this one meant I wasn’t expecting a paranormal element. I don’t want to give too much away here, as discovering exactly what these paranormals where was part of the intrigue of the book. I will say it’s original and different- the book ends up being a mix between a murder mystery and paranormal. I did like this, but feel it was probably the weakest area of the story, particularly towards the end where things got a little too far fetched for me. I wouldn’t say it ruined the book, it just didn’t blow me away that much compared to other parts of the story.

I really enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s the Name Of The Star. I liked the atmospheric and visual descriptions of London which are incredibly detailed and well researched. The history of the Ripper was also intriguing and I learned things I didn’t previously know. It’s also pretty gruesome at times as the real horrors of the murders are not shied away from! I really enjoyed main character Rory and her humour, I went from terror to laughter in a paragraph at times. The witty style ensures I’ll be checking out more of Johnson’s work in the future. The paranormal element was intriguing and different, it certainly left me wanting to know more despite not being my favourite part of the book. Overall I found this an entertaining, creepy read with a nice dose of humour for light relief when needed. One to read on a stormy night by the fire.

Published by Harpercollins UK September 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

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