February 18, 2014

Review: Ripper

Ripper By Isabel Allende
Translated by Ollie Brock and Frank Wynne
Available now from Harper (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Isabel Allende has a tremendous reputation, and I was excited to see that her latest novel was genre: a thriller.  However, her literary roots are obvious.  The crimes and their investigation tend to take a background to character vignettes and digressions.

At first, I thought that RIPPER would focus on teenage Amanda and her leadership of a group of kids (and her grandfather) determined to research true crimes.  But the book quickly turns its focus to her mother, Indiana, and Indiana's various loves, customers/patients, and friends.  Although Indiana seems entirely peripheral to the crimes, it doesn't take a great detective to realize she'll be central at the end.  (It's that fact that gave away who the killer was for me, although there was a brief moment where I doubted my own guess.)

Thus, RIPPER took awhile to capture my attention.  There was much flipping between a large cast, and I didn't find Indiana all that compelling.  She's a touch too beloved by every other character.  However, I read it while waiting for car repairs, which forced me to push through and eventually fall into the rhythm of the novel.

I particularly liked the setting.  RIPPER is set in San Francisco and makes good use of the city's various neighborhoods, social classes, gay friendliness, and reputation for hippie-ness.  Also, the various characters seemed to connect in natural ways, although it took awhile to put together who knew who and how.  To be fair, that seemed to be Allende's design.

I think that RIPPER has a bit too much literary fiction in its blood to be a truly compelling thriller.  The same details about the crimes are endlessly rehashed, and since the police characters aren't the focus, there's rarely an actual scene with someone discovering a new clue, just reporting it.  I must admit, I'd also rather read a novel about ambitious, morbid Amanda than healing, maternal-except-with-her-daughter Indiana.  It was fun to read a thriller that didn't pay much attention to the conventions of its genre.   I enjoyed RIPPER by the end, but think I'd've given up if I had more with me to read.


  1. Great review Liviana, I saw this one in the book catalogue and wondered what it would be like. Sounds like an interesting blend between the modern crime thriller and literary fiction, which I know Allende excels at. I like the SFO setting too!

    1. Looks like I have several Allende fans reading the blog!

  2. Isabelle Allende is one of my favorite authors but I liked her earlier books better: House of Spirits, Eva Luna. Her young adult trilogy was really good so I was curious about this one. I appreciated your thoughtful analysis.

    1. I've always meant to try her YA books.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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