A well-written book is hard to put down. I'm not talking about the traditional page-turner, I mean a book that tells a story so well that one is trapped within the pages. Such are the books in the Jack the Ripper Victim series, by Alan M. Clark. This, the fifth book in the series, elicits a certain dread that makes it as difficult to read as it is to put down. The bad feeling comes from what anyone who has read anything about the Ripper knows of Mary Jane Kelly, the fifth and final victim in the canon. She was the youngest, and by all accounts, the prettiest, and the only one so badly mutilated as to lose all semblance of humanity. Do not fail to read Clark's introductory material, for if you do, the purpose of this tale could very well be lost on you. This is historical fiction that depicts, quite plausibly, the life that Mary Jane Kelly lived before it was so brutally ended.
It is important to understand that THE PROSTITUTE'S PRICE is a work of historical fiction, not another book attempting to solve the Ripper murders. It is a book about one woman, who by all accounts was a young, professional prostitute at a time when women were considered chattel no matter their social standing. From beginning to end, we see that Mary Jane Kelly lived by her own set of rules and did not allow male dominance to get in the way. Whether her choices were good or bad, they were her own. Alan Clark has given each of Jack's victims a voice but none more than Mary Jane.
Clark has done a remarkable job channeling his inner feminist. The entire series portrays the strength of women. If you think about what women have done in support of family and children, you will understand that these are not the stories of drunks who were murdered. These are the stories of women who did whatever was necessary to keep body and soul together in the squalor that was London's East End. I promise you that reading these books will change your perspective on this period in history.
As much as I looked forward to this last book in the series, reading it left one thing to be desired. The narrator of the first four books, Alicia Rose, did such a fabulous job with evoking the women's voices and hardships that made the stories so poignant. I am hoping that she will narrate this last one as well.
Whether you read or listen (or switch back and forth), this book, and the entire series, will add to your understanding of a time of great societal change and the hardships women had to endure while that change was happening. Think of where we are today. We have fought for and earned rights denied to these Victorian women, yet we stand on the precipice once again. I urge you, man or woman, to read these books to better understand the ongoing plight of women.