What if Jack the Ripper were alive today?

jack_the_ripperJack the Ripper. The name means Victorian England. It means foggy streets and the glint of a silver knife. There’s something almost romantic about Jack.

This, when you think about it, is one of the most disturbing things possible. It would be exactly like saying there’s something romantic about Fred West or Ian Brady. The fifth murder of the Ripper series, the murder of Mary Kelly, is still considered one of the worst crime scenes in English history.

When I started work on The Name of the Star, I was trying to think of the person you would least want to return from the grave and roam London, unseen. Jack fit the bill. I was always fascinated with Jack the Ripper. I grew up in Philadelphia loving English mystery novels. I read two Agatha Christies a day. The first book I remember reading in its entirety was The Hound of the Baskervilles. Jack the Ripper was more of that-but real!

After 123 years, people are still trying to catch Jack the Ripper. The investigation has neverjacktheripperheadline stopped, not once. He is the one who got away. And since someone solves the case every year or so, there’s always a documentary to watch, another story to tell. The real mystery is—why is this man famous? He murdered prostitutes, women who barely registered on the Victorian social scale. He worked in East London, a place that was rife with murder. It genuinely does not make sense that this man should be an object of interest for over a hundred years.

So that’s where the mystery started for me-why Jack? Why do we care?

the-name-of-the-star1The answer seems to be found in the newspapers. Jack the Ripper was a creation of the media. Yes, there was a Whitechapel murderer, but truth be told, no one quite knows how many people he killed. It could have been four, or six, or more. (The canonical five are the five most likely victims, bearing certain signature injuries.) The publishers of The Star newspaper first saw the huge potential in the story and pumped it daily. They were likely the ones who coined the name Jack the Ripper (this is one of the reasons my book is called The Name of the Star). Jack the Ripper is a story based on fact, but the lines between fiction and reality are blurry. The Scotland Yard case files are surprisingly paltry. Almost no evidence is still available for examination. The culprit is most assuredly dead. But what we have left is the fear, so carefully cultivated by the editors of that newspaper. The fear is so well drawn, it doesn’t die.

Author of The Name of the Star: Maureen Johnson

And it was from this point of fact that I started my story, and put the killer back on the streets of East London. What if it happened today? Imagine the frenzy if Jack was back and we knew what to expect, but not where. London would be prisoner, and the fog would roll back in . . .

Sixteen-year-old American girl Rory has just arrived at boarding school in London when a Jack the Ripper copycat-killer begins terrorising the city. All the hallmarks of his infamous murders are frighteningly present, but there are few clues to the killer’s identity.

“Rippermania” grabs hold of modern-day London, and the police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. In an unknown city with few friends to turn to, Rory makes a chilling discovery…

Could the copycat murderer really be Jack the Ripper back from the grave?

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