I’ve read one of Isabel Allende’s books in the past and it was a phenomenal read. For those of you who have read Isabel Allende’s debut novel, The House of Spirits, you will know for yourselves. For those who haven’t read it I would strongly recommend it as another book to get you introduced to Allende’s writing style. However, her newest book Ripper shows how Allende’s skill and scope in literary theme has grown.
Ripper is a story about Amanda and Indiana Jackson: mother and daughter who could not be more different. Indiana is a holistic healer who feels it her mission to heal all those who are in need regardless of if they are able to afford her. As a result she has very little money and must count on her father to help her raise Amanda who is a young girl fascinated with all things macabre. With her online roll-playing friends they have started a game called Ripper where they solve crimes. Originally the crimes Amanda and her friends solved were created by Amanda, the game master, but due to a recent premonition from a popular psychic that there will be a blood bath in San Francisco they have begun to look at real murder cases. What they discover will gain the renewed attention of the police as a group of seemingly unrelated murders is believed to be the work of a serial killer and Indiana mysteriously disappears right in the midst of them. With the case now personal, Amanda’s mystery game becomes real as her and her friends rush to discover the identity of the killer in time to prevent Indiana from become the next victim.
Similarly to many of Allende’s previous novels, Ripper is just as much about the development of the characters as it is about the plot. As a mystery novel this is doubly important because it provides a greater level of depth for the audience to delve in order to reach the center of the mystery. There were many events that at first seemed to lack any substance that would make them important to the story, but I was always shown later on the reason for their inclusion. Either for character or plot development, Allende managed to tie in every event so as to make a fully fleshed story that gave the audience views from multiple vantage points.
I will say that I like to pride myself in being able to solve many mysteries before the reveal. As I finished this book on a bus on our way back from the Salt Lake City Airport I was constantly changing my mind up until the end of the book about who was the perpetrator. When the criminal mastermind was revealed I was surprised to find that it was no one that I had suspected. Allende, like the acclaimed Agatha Christie, managed to keep me guessing until the very end in order to reveal the most unlikely person to be the individual with all the strings.
There was one part of the book that I found to be especially intriguing and that was the group of kids playing Ripper. There were six players in the game who had created specific identities for themselves. There was the game master (Amanda), the henchman (Amanda’s grandfather), and several kids playing as Sherlock Holmes, a military general, a psychic, and a gypsy. What I found most fascinating wasn’t who they chose to be, but what each person brought to the table. In most mystery stories with a detective, this said individual is intelligent, strategic, logical, and intuitive. All of these attributes are helpful in creating an individual well suited to solving cases that puzzle so many others. In Ripper, however, that individual is broken apart into the six members of the group. Each player has a specific characteristic that, when combined with the other members of the group, becomes a necessary part of the detective mind. The game serves as a visual means for the audience to see the thought process that goes on inside the mind of the detective and allows us, the reader, to work with the group as they solve the case.
Having only read one other of her books I have become intrigued with her work and impressed with her capabilities as an author. Though I will be busy with the reading challenge for this summer, I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.