Review: The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland
Victorian Mystery Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The year is 1888 and Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror.

Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer in Whitechapel, is an independent woman with dark secrets. In the privacy of her studio, she supplements her meager income by taking illicit “boudoir photographs” of the town’s local ladies of the night. But when two of her models are found gruesomely murdered within weeks of one another, Sarah begins to suspect it’s more than mere coincidence.

Teamed with a motley crew of friends–including a street urchin, a gay aristocrat, a Jewish butcher and his wife, and a beautiful young actress–Sarah delves into the crime of the century. But just as she starts unlocking the Ripper’s secrets, she catches the attention of the local police, who believe she knows more than she’s revealing, as well as from the Ripper himself, now bent on silencing her and her friends for good.

Caught in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer, Sarah races through Whitechapel’s darkest alleys to find the truth…until she makes a shocking discovery that challenges everything she thought she knew about the case. Intelligent and utterly engrossing, Laura Joh Rowland’s Victorian mystery The Ripper’s Shadow will keep readers up late into the night.


The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland pits an intrepid woman and her diverse group of friends against Jack the Ripper.

Upon learning another one of her racy photographs models has been murdered, photographer Sarah Bain is certain the killer is using her photos to select his victims. Quickly realizing she cannot risk telling the police about her suspicions, Sarah tries to warn the other women they are in danger. None of the “working girls” take her warnings seriously and yet another one of Sarah’s models soon falls victim to the Ripper.  With the help of street smart orphan Mick O’Reilly, Jewish couple Abraham and Rachel Lipsky, actress Catherine Price and aristocrat Hugh Staunton, Sarah is determined to keep her models safe. At the same time, Sarah is working hard to unmask the killer whilst evading the very attractive Police Constable Thomas Barrett and the rest of the police.

Having never recovered from the death of her beloved father, Sarah  is a gifted photographer who supplements her regular photography business with a select number of salacious photos of prostitutes.  With a litany of advice learned from her bitter and unhappy mother constantly running through her mind, Sarah never lets down her guard or lets any of her neighbors or customers get close to her. The first person to sneak past her defenses is Catherine Price, an upcoming and coming actress whom Sarah helped until her frosty demeanor put an end to their budding friendship.  After an inauspicious first meeting with young Mick, she cannot help but take care of the plucky lad who tugs on her heartstrings every time he stops by her studio. Following her somewhat uncomfortable first encounter with Lord Hugh Staunton, Sarah forms an unlikely friendship with the sympathetic nobleman after they confide in one another. Rounding out her list of recently met acquaintances are married couple Rachel and Abraham, whose loyalty and affection are unexpected but surprisingly welcome as Sarah and the rest of her newly formed “family” try to keep the naughty models safe from harm.

Once the police set their sights on Sarah, she has no choice but uncover the identity of the Ripper on her own.  She and Mick quickly track down the customers who purchased her racy photographs but which one of them is killer? At the same time, Sarah and the rest of her crew continue guarding the prostitutes as they go about their nightly business.  With PC Barrett and his boss turning up at somewhat inopportune moments, will Sarah be able to convince them she innocent of any wrongdoing? And can she protect herself from further heartache at the hands of the occasionally unscrupulous Barrett?

With a cast of colorful yet endearing characters, an atmospheric setting and a clever storyline, The Ripper’s Shadow is an absolutely captivating historical mystery. The characters are richly developed with relatable flaws and the descriptive prose brings the setting vibrantly to life. There is no shortage of stunning plot twists, unexpected revelations and  surprising suspects as Sarah and her friends investigate the horrifying murders. Laura Joh Rowland puts an incredibly unique spin on the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders that is guaranteed to capture the imagination of anyone who reads historical mysteries.  An outstanding mystery that is hopefully just the first novel starring amateur sleuth Sarah Cain (and the rest of her friends).

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Laura Joh Rowland, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Ripper's Shadow, Victorian Mystery Series

One Response to Review: The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland

  1. Timitra

    I like the sound of this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy