Young detective constable Lacey Flint walks to her car after interviewing a witness and finds a woman bleeding to death draped over it. An anonymous letter to a reporter points out alarming similarities between the killer and Jack the Ripper, and mentions Lacey by name. Turns out Lacey is a lifelong Ripperologist, and has some dark secrets in her past, which slowly get revealed as the investigation progresses.
As a crime buff, I’ve always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper, and S.J. Bolton’s Now You See Me takes off from one of the lesser known theories about Jack the Ripper’s identity. This book kept me guessing throughout, and I love how Bolton put in all these twists that made me think that I knew what was going on, only to find out later on that I was wrong.
Ultimately, while the mystery began as being about Jack the Ripper, it soon became more about a contemporary crime and a secret from Lacey’s past. Lacey is an intelligent detective, and while I was afraid I’d be disappointed in whatever secrets she had (with so much build up, I would’ve hated to be let down), when the big reveal came, everything just made sense. Even the minor characters, Tulloch and Joesbury, were fascinating figures, and I could never tell what Joesbury thought about Lacey. I shared Lacey’s confusion about whether he was attracted to her or suspicious of her, and I loved that ambiguity.
Bolton effectively builds an atmosphere of creepiness, with killings taking place to the soundtrack of such an innocuous song as My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. At first, I didn’t like the chapters from the killer’s point of view, because they began as mostly atmospheric and vague, and I felt they detracted from the primary story, which was already so exciting in itself. There were also times when I wondered if plot points were going anywhere or if they were just put in randomly (e.g. flashbacks, My Favourite Things, the case Lacey was originally investigating before getting sidetracked by the Ripper copycat). However, the killer’s chapters soon became more action-packed, revealing the thoughts of the victims, and all the minor plot points turned out to be very important for the ending and for understanding the killer’s character.
Finally, I love all the discussions on Ripper lore in Now You See Me. It’s never pedantic, always in the context of trying to understand the latest murder, but it gives crimes buffs like me interesting details about Jack the Ripper. There’s even an Author’s Note where Bolton explains some of the various theories about his identity. Now You See Me is an exciting murder mystery and an original take on the Jack the Ripper myth. Highly recommended for mystery buffs.