Jack Knife Mass Market Paperback – Jan 30 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
This debut novel features an intriguing setup that, unfortunately, becomes bogged down in a too-busy narrative: American time travelers from the year 2007 find themselves in 1888 London on the trail of a dangerous interloper from their time, just as the escalation of the legendary Jack the Ripper murders has driven the city into a frenzy. Wary that they or their quarry, Jonathan Avery, might change history in a way that would eliminate their own time line, partners-of-convenience Sara Grant and David Elliot simultaneously search for their target while attempting to assist Scotland Yard Insp. Jonas Robb in thwarting the sadistic serial killer—who may be one and the same. What they don't realize is that Avery has taken a much larger role in events, and that it may be too late to salvage their future. A keen sense of history (such as the inclusion of lesser-known Ripper suspects Francis Tumblety and Michael Ostrog) bolsters this fast-paced pale, but Baker piles on bite-sized scenes and jarring shifts among characters to overwhelming, disorienting effect. (Feb.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Jack Knife has all the elements of a great horror tale, along with some of the upbeat optimism of science fiction. Add to that the convincing depiction of how nasty Whitechapel was a hundred and twenty years ago (and apparently STILL IS) and you're in for a great ride. I couldn't put it down.
It's hard to believe this is her first novel, considering the eloquent and beautiful language, the strict plot adherance, and the delightful characterizations. Sara and Robb are real people, and you can almost taste David's frustration with Sara. And then there's Jack. Oh yes. Few villins ever come that tasteful and delicious. Hannibal would like Jack. They'd get along just fine.
Jack Knife isn't the sort of book you read when you've got to get up in the morning. Because once you start, you can't stop. Great read.
I have had an interest in the Jack Ripper murders since I was a kid. The stories used to fascinate me. So, I was drawn to JACK KNIFE after just reading the cover. Virginia has done a great job of tying together the Ripper murders and connecting them to the plot of her story. The details of the events, as well as the historical accuracy of the setting, are described quite well.
I have seen JACK KNIFE marketed in some stores in the sci-fi section. This is a mistake because JACK KNIFE includes very little science fiction. The time travel scenario is basically just a device that allows the story to take place and provide a bit more incentive for the characters to perform their required task. First and foremost, JACK KNIFE is a murder mystery that is full of suspense and well-developed characters. If that isn't enough to interest someone, there's also a bit of natural romance thrown in for good measure.
I highly enjoyed reading JACK KNIFE. I completed the book in about three days and am looking forward to other works that author Virginia Baker might write in the future.
As a novel about time travel, it's not bad. The heroes are careful who they interact with until the end. Sara and David have differing theories on how history can be changed, one is the Chaos Theory where the slightest variation is going to effect everything and the second is a domino theory where only serious events are going to manipulate the unfolding of time. It's a subject matter that is really only debated on the surface level as many writers will do. The manner in which the author "breaks" between scenes and people was truly quite annoying at first but you will bypass this and even accept the reasons for it.
As a novel on Jack the Ripper, I enjoyed it but it could have been better. It's not hard to figure out where the author is going in terms of who Jack is. There are certain aspects of the JtR story I enjoyed much more than the time travel. One being the Osborne Charity Hospital, who's attending doctors are Michael Ostrog, George Chapman, Neil Cream, and Francis Tumblety. Those who know Ripper studies, know the significance of those names. The author includes the canonical 5 victims and the speculative other victims. Throw in a coverup of a much larger scale of murders throughout the London districts and the story becomes more intriguing. The downfall of the JtR story is there is very little "flavor text" so you really have no idea how bad Whitechapel was in 1888. You don't really get the feel and immersion into what the setting is like unless you have previous knowledge of it.
Better still for this book is the look at just how the newspapers are/were the central hub of information and how easy it can be to manipulate the public based on what is reported versus what isn't. This too me was the better story of the whole novel. The use of the media to manipulate the public, the police, and even the government into a submissive or embarassing position. There's also a pollution of the economy going on with counterfeit money which in turn will potential destabilize the government without the gold standard to back it up, and of course the "evil plot" thickens as a savior is setting up the redemption for the poverty of the political state.
Overall, as a story on the whole, 'Jack Knife' is a bit of a "What if...?" storyline with social and political commentaries mixed in. It's enjoyable but there may be just one too many subplots going on. The story takes off in the last 100 pages and the ending is satisfying although I expected a different turn out to make it a "happier ending" for the characters and some sappy readers. I'm glad it didn't work that way. So again, as a Jack the Ripper novel, it's decent enough; as a time travel novel, there's a lot of plot holes. As a story in general I appreciated it and will recommend it for the Ripperologist in you and as an overall good social commentary on how easily people at large can be manipulated.