Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Ripper - Stefan Petrucha True confession time: when my name was called at Penguin's "What's Coming" panel at San Diego Comic-Con last month, I was a little disappointed, as just a few books earlier, they had an early release of the latest Dresden Files book, which wasn't yet out in stores. Still, the idea of an upper-middle-grade book about Jack the Ripper was an intriguing premise, and my kids go through books like potato chips. I put it off for a few weeks, because middle grade isn't normally my comfort zone in reading, especially when it comes to boys' books.And then I underestimated Ripper.Ostensibly, Stefan Petrucha's book is about a 14-year-old orphan, Carver Young, who is about to be cast to the streets. It's just before the turn of the century (the 20th, not the 21st); the orphanage he's lived in his entire life is about to be moved; and children his age aren't going to be permitted to move along with it. His only hope is to be adopted at one last open house for prospective adoptive parents (to be attended by none other than then-NYC police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, or become a "street rat," like the Newsies those of us Of A Certain Age remember.His dream, however, is to become a detective of some sort, and through blundering and what appears to be innate aptitude, Carver finds himself taken under the wing of retired Detective Hawkins, once a protegee of the great Allan Pinkerton, and finds himself embroiled in solving a string of murders that look curiously like those attributed to a certain English serial killer while looking for his birth father.It seems like the clues are too easy, and the case too open and shut, but Petrucha offers enough diversions to keep even adults distracted until the twists and turns at the end leave the reader turning pages as fast as eyes can scan the pages. It's a long book, but packed with enough action (and bodies) to probably keep boys interested, while the violence is low-key enough that I feel confident handing this over to my nine-year-old who reads up (and likes a bit of murder and mayhem).Petrucha wins bonus points for linking his Ripper to hints of Francis Tumblety, local legend as a popular Ripper suspect. (He's buried here.) For fans of the growing-more-popular-daily steampunk genre, there are gadgets and gizmos, but none so outlandish that they rip this still-not-getting-it, cyber-punk-era mother out of the story. I'll comment after the kids have had at the book.

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