I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to be Rory Deveaux for Halloween. I already have the basic looks — dark hair, fair skin, round face. Clothes are no problem — jeans, T-shirt, vintage black velvet jacket — because they are my clothes. Red lipstick? Check. Southern accent? Got it. Just need to pick up a few props — iPod, old cell phone, Mardi Gras beads. Voila! I’m 17 again (quick, dim those lights), an American schoolgirl in London, soon-to-be fledgling ghostbuster.
Rory doesn’t know about the ghost stuff at the beginning of Maureen Johnson’s nifty new paranormal thriller, The Name of the Star, the first volume in the Shades of London trilogy. As she tells it, she’s just feeling like a fish out of water at the posh boarding school Wexford in London’s East End. But she likes her roommate Jazza, and one of the prefects, Jerome, has a great grin and floppy curls. Now, if she can just survive field hockey and English food. Also Jack the Ripper.
Yes, Jack’s back, or rather a serial killer bent on duplicating the famous Victorian murders in the Spitalfields area near Rory’s school. Despite the omnipresent closed-circuit TV cameras, the industrious efforts of the police, and intense media scrutiny, the Ripper has yet to be spotted. Then Rory sees a drab bald man outside the school as she and Jazza are sneaking back in the girls’ dorm on the night of another murder. Jazza doesn’t see him, probably because she’s scooted in the window, which leaves Rory the only witness. Soon she’s working with a super-secret security force of young officers with a specific skill set. Stephen, Callum and Boo are charged with keeping Rory away from the Ripper even as they go after the killer. They want him dead or alive. He may be both.
Johnson’s clever plot is grisly and goofy in equal measure, with plenty of grins to balance the gore. The climax in a closed, or “dead” station, of the Underground near London Bridge is followed by a stunning finale at the school that sets up a sequel. I see dead people in Rory’s future.
Open Book: I borrowed a digital copy of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star (Putnam) from the Orange County Library System’s online catalog. Once I checked it out online, Overdrive delivered the book in Adobe Digital to my laptop in S.C. , and then I sideloaded it to my Nook. What a cool trick!