Isabel Allende has had a glorious and well-documented literary and personal journey, and I’ve been pleased to follow her on a great deal if it. I still treasure the memory of her Eva Luna stories, and I’m indebted to her for some great gold rush history I used in my own writing in Daughter of Fortune and in Portrait in Sepia. I was disappointed in her Zorro, wondering if her powers were waning. However, I’m here to tell you that there’s evidence she’s still got it with Ripper.
Not that Ripper’s perfect. There’s too much tell-not-show and a lot of extraneous background. However, things really get rolling over the last quarter or third of this first foray of Allende into the detective novel genre. The “Ripper” in question is a multi-layered term. First of all, it’s the name of a group of teen-age cyber-gamers who seed to combine their talents to imaginary-solve crimes–some real, some not. Next, of course, the group seeks to advertise its power and expertise via its nominal tie to the legendary serial killer. The mastermind behind the game is the daughter of a deputy police chief and a holistic healer–now divorced. A psychic aunt has predicted a San Francisco Bay Area blood bath, and suddenly the Ripper group’s name has a third meaning as it assigns itself the task of linking a series of seemingly-unrelated killings and tracing them back to a single killer.
It’s a complex plot with a huge cast (the Ripper gamesters involves six people itself, one of which is an anorexic psychic from New Zealand), but Isabel keeps everything straight even without revealing who’s really who or what they’re after. She manages to create believable teen-age worlds as well as those of the police and CIA. Overall, Ripper’s an entertaining exciting read with plenty of San Fran atmosphere. Hope she keeps it up. This could be a great series.