Now You See Me by S.J. (Sharon) Bolton

I went into this novel with far higher expectations than I should have. The idea of a Jack the Ripper copycat was enthralling. While the story started off promising, I must admit I was absurdly disappointed a little less than halfway through. Overall, it felt like a mediocre book at best.


Detective Constable Lacey Flint tells this story from first person. I’m not a big fan of first person (unless written well) because the narrator typically can’t properly explain other characters. It’s a lot of guessing at other’s feelings and thoughts and notions. The alternating first person reminiscent of Gone Girl is a far superior and exciting way to read at such a perspective, but the drone of a monologue-type first person such as this just isn’t satisfying.

I did not like the characters. I can’t even think of one that was remotely likable or relatable. For me, the characters can make or break a story. I feel like this and the awkward relationships (especially between DC Flint and Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury) were really the downfall for this story. Throughout majority of the story, DI Joesbury is a brute. I don’t know if it’s DC Flint’s paranoia (because it is told from her perspective) or if he was truly out to get here the entire book. It just felt odd to me how they’re made out to be “foes,” at the very least at opposite ends of the spectrum. He’s chasing her, believing there is no copycat and that she’s the killer. She’s avoiding him and arguing with him nearly every time they’re together. Then at the end of the book, she’s all head over heels for him? I just didn’t understand how that happened.

Even through the awful characters and their weird relationships, I kept reading. I had hoped that this Jack the Ripper copycat would have some substance to it; and at first it did. A similar murder to the ripper’s was committed on each “anniversary,” if you will, of the first three of the canonical five. It’s after the second, though, that the plot takes an abrupt left turn. I can understand the argument for Jack the Ripper and the copycat from the book to have been a woman, but the specific line that changed the whole story was when Lacey Flint says, “I killed them” (Paraphrasing here).

Okay, whoa. Stop. What!? That’s how I felt. Next thing I know she’s packing a bag and trying to run away and all of this random nonsense is going on. I was completely confused at this point. I feel like the author may have been trying to create suspense, mystery right here, but it just didn’t work.

The worst part is that this entire “copycat” business was a hoax, a distraction. The killer is revealed to be Flint’s sister (thought to be dead for 10 or so years) who was staging the murders to resemble Jack the Ripper in order to throw off the police.. Huh? But wait, that’s not all. Lacey Flint is actually Victoria Llewellyn whom Cathy Llewellyn, her sister, is impersonating, because Cathy supposedly died in a fire. If that’s not enough to take your breath away (not necessarily in a good way), then the motive surely will.

This entire elaborate string of brutal murders was instigated by an unfortunate gang rape of the two sisters. This made my skin crawl. It’s about 12 years after the fact that Cathy has lost her mind and kills the mothers of the boys that were involved. 12 years later? Kills the moms? Now, the explanations given for her behavior were mediocre. Slap the insanity label on it and it covers all bases, right? No. That’s a cop-out. I needed this to make more sense than it did.

I guess you could see all the “loose ends were tied up,” but I still felt like something was missing when I finished. Maybe it was the elaborate revenge scheme from the rape that made this unrealistic for me. Perhaps it was the fact that the Jack the Ripper copycat wasn’t actually a copycat (this still confuses me). I think, though, that the messy characters and awkward sequence of events are what swayed my final opinion to the negative.

I’m so frustrated by this novel because it was such an excellent idea, just poorly executed. I wouldn’t recommend reading it, however, I wouldn’t say not to either. What I’ve perceived from this book could be completely different for you. That being said, out of 5 stars I’d give it a 2, but you may enjoy it more than I did, as others have.

© Chelsie Cummings 2016

Original of featured photo found on Flickr.

Graphic made by © Chelsie Cummings 2016

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