Once more Sherlock Holmes pursues Jack the Ripper.
Looking back nearly 50 years, Dr. John Watson recalls the events of 1888, when a brutal murder in Whitechapel gripped London and began a reign of terror. The grisly discovery of a second female victim, slain with equal violence in a disreputable district, awakens Holmes’s special interest. At first Inspector Lestrade is grateful for the insights of the master sleuth. Scarcely has Holmes begun questioning the family of the victims when more young women are found murdered. The perpetrator, whom the press dubs “Jack the Ripper,” begins to send Holmes letters full of taunting braggadocio and threats. To the consternation of Lestrade, Holmes enlists a covert operative in the person of Mary Ann Monk, who identified the second victim, her friend Polly Nichols, and is anxious to improve her station in life. At great personal risk, she remains in the city’s tenderloin, gathering information. As the number of victims grows, Holmes and Watson follow leads all over the city and the case takes an emotional toll on Lestrade. Bizarre twists follow: Holmes disappears for a while and, after he is gravely wounded during an encounter with the Ripper, the killer goes on hiatus, leading an investigative journalist named Dunlevy to speculate that Holmes himself might be the killer.
Faye’s debut novel faithfully captures period flavor, though a lighter touch would have been welcome at times. Her greater achievement is using the Ripper case to present a more complex portrait of Holmes and his world.