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Not long ago, Isabel Allende announced she would no longer write novels. Instead of retiring, Allende tried her hand at a murder mystery, a multi-layered, heavily populated crime story set online and in San Francisco. Slogging through Ripper, one almost wishes she had stuck to her retirement plan.

The story sounds promising enough: a group of online friends turn their attention from a Jack-the-Ripper-mystery-solving online game to the real-world mystery of an apparent serial killer at work in modern San Francisco. Teenage Amanda heads the group, feeding her virtual team facts and details she gathers from her father, a deputy chief in the SFPD. Amanda’s voluptuous mother, Indiana (New Age healer, mysteriously gifted, barely making ends meet), is torn between two very different suitors, amputee-turned-triathlete former Navy SEAL Ryan, and wealthy wine-and-art connoisseur Alan. When Indiana disappears, Amanda and her team must work feverishly to save her.

Ripper can’t decide what kind of book it wants to be. Where it is a character study (and there are so, so many characters!), it suffers from endless repetition (paragraph upon tedious paragraph about Indiana’s “womanly curves,” Ryan’s “silent strength,” Amanda’s “quick mind”). Where it is a love story, it is too clichéd to resonate with even the most dewy-eyed reader. And where it is a murder mystery, it is maddeningly, deadly dull.

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Star Count 2/5
Format Hard
Page Count 496 pages
Publisher Harper
Publish Date 2014-Jan-28
ISBN 9780062291400 Buy this Book
Issue February 2014
Category Mystery, Crime, Thriller


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