People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield.

It was the fantastic title and wonderful historic and dark premise that had me purchasing this book the moment I set eyes on it. I mean, imagine a novel that features a woman who comes to believe she has married Jack the Ripper!

Set in the grim dank streets of Victorian London in 1888, the reader follows thirty-year-old Susannah as she falls head over heels for young, handsome surgeon, Thomas. But just as former- nurse, Susannah, keeps secrets from her new husband, so too Thomas and his wilful and quite creepy housekeeper, appear to be keeping very dark ones from her. But when their efforts to hide the truth from Susannah become deadly, she is forced to act.

I know many readers loved this book, and what sharing impressions of novels and their impact does is expose how wildly divergent readers’ tastes can be, and this is a wonderful thing. We each bring our own context, genre preferences and expectations to a book (for better and worse!). Sadly, while I so admire the notions underpinning this book, adore historical fiction (and crime!) and the push to give women of the past a voice, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped.

There’s a number of reasons, but mainly I found I didn’t relate to or care about any of the characters, not even Susannah. I also found some of the plot points and character motivation more convenient than logical vehicles for moving the narrative forward. What I did enjoy was the evocation of the city, the descriptions of dirty, fog-bound London and the gap between newspaper reports of the brutal murders, and even the brief experiences of the poor victims and those upon whom the grisly deaths impacted. I also love the chutzpah and imagination writers show when they tackle well known stories and mysteries – especially from the past – and put an original spin on them.

Unfortunately, while it has positives, this book didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

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