The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the StarOkay, so, I love me some Maureen Johnson on the Twitters, and I’ve liked me some stories written by Maureen Johnson, and so when MJ started shilling this book on her twitter feed, I was like, well, I guess I’ll check that out. If I had known how much I’d adore this book, I’d have been like, “OMG give me pre-order signed copy with presents now!” Oh, hindsight, for you are 20/20.

For those not residing in a jar (this is a Twitter MJ reference), The Name of the Star is a mystery story set in present-day London and featuring a Jack the Ripper copycat killer, which, I somehow had not realized how horrifyingly brutal Mr. the Ripper was and so let me just tell you right now that there will be stabbing and disembowelment and kidneys sent via post. Not too much, and only briefly, but now you are prepared.

Anyway, the story follows Rory, an American girl spending her senior year at a boarding school in London, not far from the Ripper’s hunting grounds. Once the copycat starts his bit up, the school gets a little lockdown-y, but Rory and her roommate sneak out on a murder night to watch the proceedings from the roof of the boys’ dorm (house? whatever) with Rory’s crush. On the way back to their room, Rory has a little chat with a super creeper face who happens to be hanging around their dorm, and then the next morning it turns out that there’s a dead body on school grounds and that that creeper was probably totally the killer. Eep!

And then there’s this twist that I wasn’t expecting and that I disliked and I was like, maybe I’m not going to like this book after all and maybe I should just stop reading but I was so intrigued by how they were going to get the SCF and then the twist just totally stopped bothering me and now I kind of like it a lot, because I think Johnson did a superb job of keeping the twist grounded in reality. Well, as much as one can, I suppose.

I’m not quite sure what it is about this book that I love, as opposed to the moderate to strong like I’ve had for her other stories I’ve read. I guess I just really liked Rory, who’s a smart kid that I would totally have hung out with in high school, and I liked the mystery and serial killer aspects, and I liked that even though I could see some things coming from pages away, the reveals were never exactly what I expected.

Now to just wait a year for the next book to come out! I’ll just be over here, twiddling my thumbs, impatiently…

Recommendation: For fans of mysteries and serial killers and boarding schools and stories that veer slightly out of the realm of reality.

Rating: 9/10

Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay (8 July — 10 July)

Back in the day when I could easily creatively acquire television shows (ahem), I watched a lot of TV. Possibly too much. But one of the shows I dearly loved was Dexter, a show about a serial killer who kills serial killers. It was interesting and quirky and starred Michael C. Hall, and I would still be watching it today (it’s still on, right?) if I wanted to pay for Showtime. Which I don’t. Maybe I’ll be able to grab the seasons from the library, but that is for the future.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. This excellent show is based on the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, a short-ish novel about, well, a serial killer who kills serial killers. Shocking. Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for Miami Dade, working alongside his foster sister, Deborah/Deb/Debs/Debbie, a vice cop looking to move up to homicide. Deb’s father, Harry, was a cop himself, and took Dexter in after finding him at some crime scene that he kept a secret from Dexter even in his death. All Dexter knows is that he’s emotionless (sort of), not-quite-human, and carries a “Dark Passenger” inside him that likes to kill people. But Dex follows his foster dad’s advice and keeps the DP at bay by killing only people who really deserve it. But then, one day, another serial killer pops up with an M.O. rather like Dexter’s for disposing of bodies, and Dexter’s world goes a little lopsided.

This book is not for the faint of heart, though it’s a bit less graphic than the series. Also, while it covers the same time span as the first season and is pretty much the same plotline, it has a rather different ending, so don’t feel like you’ll be spoiled too much.

Unfortunately, the ending is my one big beef with the novel — not that it’s different, of course, because that’s allowed, but because Lindsay leaves a couple of my questions unanswered (like [spoiler alert] what the heck happens to the killer and how Dexter convinced Deb to be okay with any of what just happened to her [end spoiler alert]), after he complained about LaGuerta not asking questions and therefore being a bad detective. Whatever. My recommendation: read this first, then go watch the series and love every bit that doesn’t have Lilah in it.

Rating: 6.5/10