The mesmerizing story of a young woman in Victorian London who, haunted by the ghosts of Jack the Ripper's victims, is set on a terrifying path to salvation.
The real monsters are men.
London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, with nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in London Hospital. Evelyn wanted to be locked away from the world like he is, shut away from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.
When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper's dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity's worst nightmares.
A terrifying and haunting tale from the Edgar Award-winning author of Icefall and the Assassin's Creed novels, Matthew J. Kirby.
©2016 Matthew J. Kirby (P)2016 Scholastic Inc.
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I had high hopes for this novel, but I was unprepared for how thoroughly it won me over. I was entranced.
As a historian, I'm very interested in the Whitechapel murders and their context in the East End of London, and the careful research in evidence in A Taste for Monsters satisfied me deeply. I've walked in the characters' footsteps at London Hospital, Spitalfields, and Whitechapel, and I delighted in the sharp detail Kirby brought to the story.
But there's so much more. So many times in historical novels -- especially YA novels -- the desire to have a plucky, gutsy heroine leads to all kinds of anachronistic behavior, dialog, etc. Not here. Evelyn is an outstanding heroine, a young woman disfigured by her work with poisonous phosphorus as a "matchstick girl" and struggling to find a means of supporting herself with dignity. Similarly, Kirby addresses Jack the Ripper in a most refreshing fashion, focusing not on following the monster who killed but instead on restoring and respecting the humanity of the women who were murdered.
This entire story is shot through not only with delicious Gothic atmosphere and genuine peril, but also with gentle, humane insight. Evelyn's work and friendship with Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, is a centerpiece of this mystery/horror/historical/coming-of-age story, and it's simply beautiful.
I can't recommend this enough!
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