The intrigue and mystery of notorious crimes has a long memory. None more so than Jack the Ripper, the sordid landscape Whitechapel London, and the horror of five grotesquely mutilated bodies. The five victims were all female prostitutes. This surely put the target on them, but did it also slow the investigation? Would more resources have been allocated to this unsolved crime if the victims had been from a more distinguished caste of society? Did sexist double standards play a role in what has undoubtedly a sexist Victorian England?
Historically fictive accounts of the Ripper have embraced the detective and thriller genres and sometimes even steampunk. Here, the novella takes an urban fantasy approach with witchcraft and supernatural motives layered onto the detective and thriller genres. Most satisfyingly, the gender issues are explored and embraced at many levels. What double standards led to the women becoming prostitutes? What were the current relationships with men for these married [yes, married] women? Importantly, it also asks whether the male investigators were adequately inspired to solve the crimes and right headed in their efforts to do so.
Apprentice Investigator Kit Caswell wants to unravel the secrets surrounding the gruesome murders of 2 local Whitechapel prostitutes. But Kit has secrets, too, that could aid and undermine the investigation. She’s illegally impersonating a man to hold the job. That’s the only way she can earn enough to support her less-than-sane mother and her sickly younger brother. She happens to be good at her job. But she has her naysayers in the department, along with her advocates.
Out on the street, one particular neighborhood denizen sees right through Kit’s disguise. Mary Jane is a low-level witch, friend of both deceased, and a prostitute with a target on her back . . .
This highly recommended tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Female Factory”, “A Good Husband”, and “The Song of Sighs”
[Check out my other reviews here.]