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Book Review – Ripper by Isabel Allende

Synopsis:  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.

First Line:  “Mom is still alive, but she’s going to murdered at midnight on Good Friday,” Amanda Martin told the deputy chief, who didn’t even think to question the girl; she’d already proved she knew more than and all his colleagues in Homicide put together.

Random Quote:  Indiana shivered under her poncho as she listened to Ryan in the chill damp of the woods that day.  She did not need to ask any questions.  As he told the story, she had slipped into the hut behind Ryan and Attila; after they’d left, she had crept into the hole beneath the wooden boards and stayed with the children, hugging them close until the attack was over and the women in the village came and took away the bodies of their mother and their grandmother, until they came and found them and took them from this hideout so they could begin the long process of mourning their dead.  Everything happens simultaneously, she thought to herself; time does not exist, there are no limits in space, we are part of the spiritual whole that embraces all the souls of previous incarnations, the spirits of the past and of the future.  We are tiny drops in one great ocean, she thought, as she often did during her meditations.  She turned toward Ryan, who sitting on a tree stump next to her and hanging his head, and saw that his cheeks were wet with the rain, or perhaps with tears.  She reached out to dry them in a gesture so sad, so tender, that he heaved a mournful sigh.

Review:  I have history with Isabel Allende, beginning with The House of the Spirits, a book I first read when it came out in paperback.  I was on my honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta and it was a wonderful place to read it and a wonderful story.  I’ve since read many of her books and I always find something to love in them.

In theory, Ripper is a thriller, a bit of suspense, a crime novel.  In reality, Ripper is the story of a sprawling network of family, friends, and acquaintances in San Francisco, particularly in the North Beach neighborhood (one of my favorite places in the city, and not just because of the City Lights bookstore, although that doesn’t hurt it).  If you need your crime novels to follow a standard trajectory of crime, detection, and capture, this book probably won’t work for you, but if you approach it as a character-driven novel you’ll enjoy yourself.

I really liked this book, even though it contains few of the elements of magical realism that have made Ms. Allende’s novels famous.  I loved getting to know these characters, their backstories, their current stories, and the thread of danger that interlaces their lives in this moment.  From a teenager who runs an online role-playing game devoted to solving serial crime to Indiana – an unconventional healer, to Ryan – an Afghan war vet and amputee and his comrade in arms – the dog, Attila, I wanted to know everything about them all and Ms. Allende delivered.  She also captures all the things I love about San Francisco and its flavors – the character of the various neighborhoods that make the city wonderful – without dwelling on (nor ignoring) its huge negatives, Ripper is a love note to the city, to family of all kinds, and will keep you reading long into the night.

FTC Disclosure:  Advance copy from publisher for review

Publishing Information:  Harper – January 28, 2014

Format:  Kindle

Published inBooks

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