Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Ripper by Isabel Allende

"Mom is still alive, but she's going to be murdered at midnight on Good Friday, " Amanda Martin told the deputy chief, who didn't even think to question the girl; sh'ed already proved she knew more than he and all his colleagues in the Homicide put together. ~ First Sentence of Ripper



Ripper by Isabel Allende
Harper, 2014
Crime Fiction; 496 pgs

From the Publisher:
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. 
While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD's Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.  
 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.

Ripper was my first experience with Isabel Allende, and, as I understand it, her first foray into crime fiction.  I knew going in this would be a slower paced mystery/thriller type novel, and that is okay. I can appreciate a book that takes its time, one that spends a lot of time developing the characters, and setting up the story. Ripper opens with a rather heinous murder that is brought to the attention of a group of online role players, led by Amanda Martin, with her grandfather acting as her henchman who have decided to try their hand at solving real life crimes instead of their own make believe ones.  It's an interesting premise to say the least.  

The real story, however, lies with Indiana, Amanda, Martin, and Amanda's grandfather, with Indiana always at the center.  It makes sense given she is targeted by the killer--something revealed to the reader up front. What the reader doesn't know is why or how.  And so, Isabel Allende's novel, Ripper, unfolds.

The author spends much time describing Indiana's life and the people she encounters.  Each of those people play an important role in events to come, and I have to say, I appreciated the depth the author went into with each character, including the more eccentric and mysterious ones.  I especially liked how the author breathed life into her characters.  I really came to care for Amanda and her mother, Indiana.  Both were very different in terms of personality, but they are strong female leads, nonetheless.  I also really liked Amanda's grandfather--even though I did have to wonder at times how easily led by Amanda he was.

Ryan, the former Navy SEAL and his dog, were such interesting characters, especially given Ryan's past and the obstacles he had to overcome after losing his leg in battle.  The emotional turmoil he went through was palatable, especially given the psychological aspects of what he'd been through--and done. And the dog, a war hero in her own right. Atilla's own story was very moving.  I loved that dog.

I wish the author had allowed the reader to spend more time with the Ripper group in general.  They were an interesting group of kids, misfits really, each bringing their own knowledge and skills to the table.

At times I felt as if the author threw just about everything, including the kitchen sink, she could into this novel--and, somehow, it worked, mostly.  Allende is clearly a gifted storyteller.  Just about everything she includes in this novel has a purpose.  And while some threads of the story were stronger than others, some more necessary than others, it made for an interesting and entertaining novel.

It took a while for the mystery to unravel, and very little happens over the first half of the novel in terms of the actual solving of the crime.  I did wish the story hadn't meandered quite as much in the middle as it did. Nothing a tightening of the plot couldn't resolve.  The biggest trouble I had with the book, at it was a big one for me, was near the end.  Not the end itself, mind you, but the way the author revealed the who and why of the mystery.  The suspense was intense and the edge of your seat kind.  I did not mind the slow down as the point of view changed from the good guys to the bad.  Writing devices like that only increase the suspense. What bothered me was the repetition.  As the good guys uncovered major bits of the mystery, the view would shift to the killer, who would then go over the same information without much more insight than I, as the reader, had already been given. It happened again and again, enough the throw me out of the story.  Still, the ending is, like I said, intense and quite a ride.  It was a fitting ending to the novel overall.

And can I just add how much I loved the setting of the novel?  San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  I am always happy to spend time there, in person or in a book.

There was much I liked about this book even as there were some aspects I had trouble with.  I am curious about Allende's other books and hope to one day try something else by her.  So many others love her writing.  I want to too, but this wasn't a book that won be over.

Rating:   (Fair +)

To learn more about Isabel Allende and her books, please visit the author's website

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Ripper on the TLC Book Tours route!



Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided an e-copy of the book for review.



© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. I keep reading that this is not her best effort.

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    1. Kathy - It is good to know I am not alone in assuming that.

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  2. I am going to read this one becuase I am SO curious how Allende will do crime fiction. Glad you found it to be a worthwhile read.

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    1. Elizabeth - I hope you like it better than I did!

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  3. Its always a plus when a novel features your home town or indeed a place you have a particular affinity with.

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    1. Tracy - Yes, it is! While I have never lived in San Francisco, I lived near the city (if you can count 90 miles "near") for years. I used to love visiting San Francisco.

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  4. I've never read anything by Allende, but this one intrigues me. I may have to give it a try, being forewarned about the slow sections.

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    1. Carrie - If you do read it, I'll be curious to know what you think. I hope you like it more than I did!

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  5. I recently read a scathing review of this one by a "big" blogger and so have been curious about other opinions. I read House of the Spirits years ago and think it is probably very different stylistically from this one but I can see throwing everything including(!) the kitchen sink. Glad you found it worthwhile even if a bit clunky. And San Francisco is a great city, huh?!

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    1. Trish - I have avoided reading reviews of this one until I finished writing mine. Now you've got me curious which blogger hated it so much.

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  6. I'm not a big fan of crime fiction but I have Isabel Allende high up on my "want to read list" for her other books.. I am wondering if I should start with the Ripper or if I should read some other book of hers first.. I

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    1. Ramya - I do want to try something else by her as I'm not sure this is a good one to gauge her writing. If you do read it, I hope you like it!

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  7. I read another of her books and I can't remember the title right off but I didn't really enjoy it so I'm not ready to pick up another by her. Lol.

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    1. Darlene - I almost read Zorro by her, but for some reason changed my mind. I am not sure what I will read by her next, but it will probably be awhile before I try her work again. I do want to though. Someday.

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  8. This sounds interesting if a bit clunky. I've never read any Allende but I've heard of her and this one might be a good one to try! I do love when I have an attachment to the setting.

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    1. Katherine - I love reading about places I am attached to as well. It can make a story come even more alive.

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  9. Like many others, I would read it just to see how Allende did crime fiction. That alone intrigues me.

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    1. Jenclair - It could be that others will like this one much more than I did--I hope so. I did like parts of it--so it wasn't a total loss for me. I just wish I'd liked it more.

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  10. I like that (almost) all the details Allende included were unexpectedly important.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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    1. Heather - Haha! I can definitely see why people like her writing, even if this wasn't her best.

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  11. I kind of wish Allende would go back to her roots. Oh, well!

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    1. Kelly - I keep hearing that about her. That her earlier books were better.

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  12. I have only ever read (or tried to read) Daughters of Fortune by Allende and I couldn't get into it despite everyone's praise of it. I think I just don't have the patience for her type of storytelling. Even when I watched the movie The House of Spirits I was like "oh do get on with it".

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    1. Becca - I think I had Daughters of Fortune at one point but it ended up in my give away pile when we moved. I never did read it. I don't mind long-winded storytelling if it's a really good story, but it has to be done well.

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  13. The premise of Ripper sounds like a good one as does the San Francisco setting. The repetition would annoy me as well. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

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    1. Naida - It does sound interesting, doesn't it? Maybe it was just me in regards to the ending. Maybe my head wasn't in the right place.

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  14. I agree with what Kailana posted! I loved Allende's early books and I don't know if it's because they are set in Latin America. I think those books had such beautiful writing. Some of her newer novels have been so-so for me. This one I'm sort of intrigued about and I don't know if you saw but on NPR they had an article about how Allende said she wrote this kind of as a lark. As you can imagine some of the mystery readers got upset thinking she doesn't think highly of crime fiction. A bit of a literary scandal :) Anyway, enjoyed reading your review!

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    1. Iliana - I was kind of surprised she set this one in San Francisco, although not disappointed by it. It's just not the setting I associate her with.

      I did read about how she wanted to write a novel with her husband, but that it didn't work out, but I hadn't heard about the little scandal in terms of people thinking she was putting down crime fiction by saying she'd written Ripper as a lark. Didn't that happen with another author who tried his hand writing crime fiction? I can see why an author would want to experiment and explore other genres or categories in writing. I think it's neat they want to step outside their own comfort zones.

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  15. Nice honest review. I think I might pass on this one even though I like San Fran too! Cheers. http://www.thecuecard.com/

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    1. SGW - Thank you. I wish I had liked this one more.

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  16. Bummer. I've read a few by her, my first (and hers) House of Spirits, I loved. It's been a few years ans I keep meaning to read more. Don't give up on her yet!

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    1. Stacy - I do want to try something else by her because I know so many love her writing. I am hoping this one was just an exception.

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