Isabel Allende turns to crime

Isabel Allende’s gripping and clever thriller, Ripper, hits stores today.


For Amanda Martín and her friends, Ripper was all just a game. But when security guard Ed Staton is found dead in the middle of a school gym, the murder presents a mystery that baffles the San Francisco police, not least Amanda’s father, Deputy Chief Martín. Amanda goes online, offering ‘The Case of the Misplaced Baseball Bat’ to her fellow sleuths as a challenge to their real-life wits. And so begins a most dangerous obsession.

The murders begin to mount up but the Ripper players, free from any moral and legal restraints, are free to pursue any line of enquiry. As their unique power of intuition lead them ever closer to the truth, the case becomes all too personal when Amanda’s mother suddenly vanishes. Could her disappearance be linked to the serial killer? And will Amanda and her online accomplices solve the mystery before it’s too late?

We are delighted to present a letter from Isabel detailing the inspiration behind her turn to crime-writing…

In 2012, after publishing several historical novels that required years of intensive research, I announced that it was time for me to retire. My agent panicked. Thinking quickly, she insisted I should instead write a crime novel with my husband, William C. Gordon, who happens to be a mystery writer. Willie and I decided to give it a try, but he writes in English and his attention span is eleven minutes; I write in Spanish, an average of eleven hours a day. Almost immediately, we knew that we would end up killing each other instead of the literary victims of our potential novel.

It was January 8, the date I begin all my books, and I had nothing else in mind, so while Willie went on to tackle his sixth mystery, I planned my first murder. The result was the most entertaining literary adventure of my long life. There is nothing quite so fascinating as crime.

Inspiration came when I saw my grandchildren playing Ripper, an online roleplaying game set in 1880 London and dedicated to catching Jack the Ripper. In my novel, a group of young geeks, under the command of Amanda Martín, game master and daughter of SFPD Deputy Chief Bob Martín, decide to play their own version of the game and investigate a series of crimes that are terrorizing modern-day San Francisco. They manage to stay one step ahead of the police by having fun, relying on imagination and intuition, and because they are free from all moral and legal restrictions.

As I developed a taste for killing humans, I realized more research was needed. Fortunately, I found help in a forensic doctor, a sea captain, a Navy SEAL, a dog trainer, a couple of gang members, a few psychopaths, two cops, a holistic healer, and other charming characters who spent many precious hours answering my weird questions. In the process, I discovered several creative ways of disposing of my enemies. (Willie, poor man, is always looking over his shoulder now.)

If you figure out who the killer is before the last two pages of Ripper, I will send you $100 worth of cyanide or other poison of your choice.

Yours in crime and punishment,

Isabel Allende

Certified Assassin

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