Review of What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

Thank you Sourcebooks for providing me a review copy of this book. Much appreciated and sincere thanks!

The book surrounds itself on the Jack the Ripper murders with author Henry James (yes, the literary figure) and his brother and sister (William and Alice) as the sleuths to this murder mystery. Alice herself actually takes charge of solving the case, and she has her brothers do the detective work. You’ll find here a very interesting ‘what if’ plot filled with famous literary and artistic figures in a very detailed and descriptive 19th century England.

This book was very descriptive. VERY descriptive. Yet it added a lot of ‘flavor’ and really set the setting for the book. It made picturing the scenes and settings much more clearer and it almost felt like watching a movie. I especially like the dinner scenes (particularly when Henry was hosting a party) they were very well written and it also gave you a look on how parties were handled during that particular time period in England.

The three main characters, Henry, William and Alice James were also well done. I liked how each of them although siblings, they had issues and problems of their own and never talked about it amongst themselves. Yet it was also fun to see the sibling rivalry especially between Henry and William. (With Alice usually being the one to stop the bickering) It made the characters more real and three dimensional – not to mention more enjoyable to read. What I thought was really interesting was the addition of other famous literary and artistic characters into the plot. They have small roles (I particularly liked Oscar Wilde and Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain in the book) but it suits the setting as Henry belonged to these particular social circles and it’s only logical that they would be featured in the novel. There were some characters that I had to look up online to see if they existed or not – particularly the artists as I have no knowledge of who’s who. It did turn out to be quite a learning experience for me.

The plot was well done and well written. I found it a bit dry in some areas and wished it went just a little bit faster – I admit it was a little slow towards the end of the novel. The beginning however was certainly interesting and caught my attention. I thought the ending was interesting and although vague, it got me wondering if the mystery was really solved (or not). There is plenty of mystery in the book and the suspects add more to the intrigue. I myself had guesses as to who Jack the Ripper was, but with the ending, now I’m not so sure. I liked how the epilogue rounded out the book. I found it creepy and chilling at the same time. It still left me with a lot of questions, but the feeling of uneasiness was left behind. (Which I liked, it certainly added more intrigue to the story).

Overall, an interesting mystery featuring Jack the Ripper. Yet the book still leaves you wondering; “Did he/she do it?”  Although I recommend this to history lovers and those who are interested in the Jack the Ripper murders, I’d have to wonder if perhaps those who know their artists as well as writers of this particular time period would definitely enjoy this book more than I did?

I give it a 6 out of 10.


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