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3.3 out of 5 stars18
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 March 2014
One reviewer on amazon claimed that this was the combined work of the family and not of the great writer herself. I do hope so because it is a travesty of all the terrific books I loved her for. The only thing comparable is its length. To this aim every character, however minor, is given a back story, quite irrelevant to the main plotline. The detective part of the book is clunky and unbelievable, you feel a fool to be reading it. San Francisco may well be peopled by stereotypes, but I don't want to read about them. Perhaps the author(s) wanted to get every subject featured in the news a place as padding to make this a weighty book. If its been on the news its down here, from female genital mutilation, holistic medicine to Afghanistan. It all becomes meaningless. Shame on the publishers for not protecting Allende's reputation and literary standards. Looks like the money mattered more.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2015
Isabel Allende, known as a `Magic Realist' author, has written her first thriller/crime novel in Ripper. Although it involves the all-too-predictable `there is a serial killer on the loose' territory - albeit one who is a million miles from the even more predictable savage-dismemberment-of-beautiful-women territory which appears to be the stock in trade of the genre - it is remarkably unlike most crime writing. Perhaps that (and of course, the author's credentials) is what acted as its lure.

Magic Realism, and particularly South American Magic Realism, is often labyrinthine and circumlocutory in structure. A shaggy dog story which rambles happily all over the place, entering into tangles, picking up burrs and thistles in its coat, enjoyably snuffling hither and thither, gathering all sorts of snippets and detritus. The earthy, fascinated by small detail tangle of this-and-that IS the point. The journey, and everything on it, including the dead-end detours, are what matters, far more than an express London to Edinburgh straight up along the high speed tracks predictable journey.

So Allende brings that to this story, and peoples her world with the weird and wonderful, the odd-ball, the eccentric - which is actually all of us, if we bother to get behind the façade - and the undoubtedly messy hotch-potch of some 500 pages, kept me reading, sometimes with irritation, raised eyebrows, pursed lips, muttering `ridiculous!' Yet curiously enthralled and fascinated. Allende's voice is persuasive, warm, charismatic. Lovable not despite, but because of the rich and fussy detail.

`Ripper' in this San Francisco set novel is nothing to do with the nasty Jack, the equally nasty Yorkshire, or any of those all too overt other real misogynists. Or the thousands of invented sociopaths which people many books in the genre. `Ripper' is the name given to a small global band of rather oddball geeks who solve murders `as an on-line game', and severally adopt various avatars and skills to do so. So there is a `Sherlock Holmes' for example - in reality a baseball cap wearing cool dude living in Reno. The tempestuous gypsy Esmeralda is the avatar of a New Zealand based boy confined to a wheelchair. There is a `psychic' - in reality, an hospitalised anorectic, visionary through her extreme starvation. The games master, and leader of the group, is San Francisco based Amanda. Amanda is 17, but she is also, often, going on 10, in her emotional innocence and child-like enthusiasms, and simultaneously, going on 900 in her Methuselah like intelligence and wisdom. Wrapped around her little finger is her grandfather Blake, an author. Blake is also one of the Ripper players - his avatar is that of Amanda's henchman and gofer, Kabel. She bosses him around hideously. Amanda's father is Bob Martìn, (ha ha, for English readers, a doggy joke) a Police Chief. Martìn is `in real' trying to solve the murders which are hitting the city. And, by nefarious means, gaining access to inside information, `Ripper' is attempting to solve the cases too. (no prizes for guessing, true to golden age crime traditions, who does best, the ams or the pros)

So far so good - until things all get close to home. Amanda's mother, Indiana (Indiana and Bob separated long ago but remain friends) is a New Age good-hearted, far too innocent, far too credulous and space-cadetish healer. She is an aromatherapist and Reiki practitioner and Allende leaves no crystal unturned and no `vial' of oil unopened to richly egg a stereotype. Indiana is also gloriously beautiful (so clearly, she will be a victim) and very sensual.

Stir well, in San Francisco's Armistead Maupin Tales Of The City cauldron, and Allende drops in astrologers, the campy camp, a collection of noble animals (delights for dog and cat lovers) a noble and injured Navy SEAL with a prosthetic leg, any number of ancient women with superb kitchen skills and earthy wisdom - and of course, somewhere there will be our murderer. Actually, she signals this quite early with big waves - I fingered the perp, accurately, from the off - though there were some very surprising twists and potential herrings and attempts to throw us, at a late stage, off the scent. I have to say that one of the major twists and revelations I did not see coming. And perhaps that was because, with even a little objective thought, it was of such utter implausibility as not to have crossed anyone's mind. What amazed/amused me, though, was despite the gaping holes in any credibility, which caused my eyebrows to hit the ceiling, and my mouth to downturn in critical disapproval, my page turning frenzy was increasing, and was enjoyable despite the eventual utterly silliness.

The book is full of intentional (and I think, unintentional) humour - some of the characters almost wallow in their ability to wear a cliché well, and Allende has fun with us as she paints them in glaring primary colours and then twists a bit - and I even wonder whether the utter silliness of the solution isn't part of her joke and genre spoof

So, surprisingly, recommended - but only to those prepared to leave scientific and linear rationality at the door, and surrender to a kind of hectic carnival where anything might happen. And does Northern European Noir this isn't!

Rarely have I enjoyed anything with so many flaws so much!
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on 4 April 2014
This is an interesting book, different and slow to get going. Ultimately I found it disappointing mostly because I felt the author could have got a lot more mileage out of what was essentially a good storyline.
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on 15 April 2014
I was a bit disappointed in the book. I don't think Isabel Allende's books have been as good as they used to be recently. I have always bought her books each year as they come out and have not been very pleased with the last two or three years.

However, the book has a complicated plot and it does all hang together rather neatly in the end and has some interesting twists in it.
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on 28 January 2014
Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea is one of my favourite books. (my review) I think she's brilliant when it comes to writing historical fiction. Her last novel, Maya's Notebook, (my review) was a contemporary piece with a teenage protagonist.

Ripper is Allende's latest novel and is again set in present day with a teenage protagonist.

Amanda and her five teenage online friends from around the world are part of a role playing game named Ripper. They investigate "fictional nineteenth century crimes in a fog-shrouded London where characters were faced with scoundrels armed with axes and icepicks, archetypal villains intent on disturbing the peace of the city."

When a famous astrologer (who just happens to be Amanda's godmother) predicts a "bloodbath" in Amanda's city (San Francisco) the young crime solvers move their focus to real time cases.

Okay, so that's the basic premise. It actually took me a bit to get into the novel. There are numerous characters and connections introduced in the first few chapters. I admit to feeling a bit confused as I tried to work out what the focus of the book was. Is it the murders? Or is it the story of Amanda's mother Indiana? Indi is a free spirited new ager who is torn between two lovers. There are many more storylines as the book continues - a few too many in my opinion. I usually enjoy Allende's in-depth study of her characters, but in Ripper I just felt overwhelmed.

Some of the relationships seemed odd, stilted and convenient. Amanda's father just happens to be the Deputy Police Chief of Homicide. Much of the Ripper players' knowledge is freely and easily obtained from him. ( I just never really bought the Ripper players - they seemed more of a prop than an effective part of the book.) Many of the (numerous) other characters are clichéd and overdrawn.

From the author's acknowledgements:

"This book was born on January 8, 2012 when my agent, Carmen Balcells, suggest to my husband, Willie Gordon, and me that we cowrite a crime novel. We tried, but within twenty-four hours it was clear the project would end in divorce. So he stuck to his own work - his sixth detective novel- while I shut myself away to write alone, as always."

I appreciate that an author would be interested in exploring something new and applaud Allende's foray into new genres. But, for this reader, Ripper was a bit of strange read. It was just way too busy and tried to do too much. There's the murder mystery, social commentary on war and the legal system, history, a love story, exploration of alternative therapies, new ageism, and more. The identity of the whodunit is well telegraphed despite the twist that Allende employs at the end. And the murderer's motive has been done many times before. (And the publisher's blurb of 'fast-paced mystery' misses the mark completely)

I still think Allende is a wonderful writer, but Ripper missed the mark for me.
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2014
Isabel Allende is going to write a crime novel? To say I was intrigued is an understatement, and so when I got my hands on Ripper I can honestly say that I was a very happy reader, I love great crime/thriller writing, in fact there is nothing better than getting caught up in ‘page turning plot which is populated with memorable characters and makes you lose sleep, as you can’t put the book down until you discover ‘whodunnit’.

And so to Allende and Ripper. The premise of the novel is that there’s a killer on the lose in San Francisco and a group of teen outsiders who play an online crime game decide to investigate the San Francisco murders. Luckily for the group, their leader Amanda just happens to be the daughter of the detective in charge of the investigation (who doesn’t seem to do a lot of detecting) and he is disclosing any information related to the killings to his daughter, even the most confidential aspects of the investigation. Let’s just add to this plot Amanda’s mother, Indiana, who is a “tall voluptuous blonde” holistic healer who has unfortunately caught the killer’s attention. Hang on, I hear you say, all we need now is a stereotypical outside investigator who has not only fallen for the “voluptuous blonde” but is also ex army/navy.... and you can see where this review is going.

But maybe, if we ignore the implausible plot and annoying characters, we might find a well written and well constructed novel. Unfortunately that’s not happening either. The pace of the novel is weighed down by the amount of detail which is thrown constantly at the reader. How many times do we need to be reminded that the handsome, chiselled former Navy SEAL is tormented by his past, even his dog Attila has a huge backstory and is stereotyped. At moments of supposedly high drama, I found myself laughing out loud a the sheer ridiculousness of the prose and the action taking place (not good in if the author is trying to show us how violent warfare is).

One must ask the question, why did Allende feel the need to write a crime novel? Apparently, she stated in an NPR interview that she is “not a fan of mysteries” and she had read “the most successful ones on the market” in preparation for writing Ripper. In reading Ripper I am not surprised by her first statement and I am surprised at her second as I would wonder whether she has read any Chandler, Connelly or Mankell. If you want a formulaic, prescriptive read with totally unbelievable characters and a plot which holds no surprises, then Ripper might be the book for you.
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on 24 July 2014
Didn't like it. Not one of Allende's best.
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on 30 August 2015
This book has all her usual emotional drama and rich passionate content, but it also has a level of action that had me reading for 4 hours until I finished the book. Could NOT put it down!
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on 25 September 2014
Probably one of the greatest writers of our time. I have every book she has written, including one she sent personally and autographed. except one or two for children
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on 13 February 2014
The story ambles along, with far too much detail about the characters, going down blind alleys about tiny insignificant details and then suddenly changing to a different explanation about something different. It's confusing and doesn't carry you along, so instead of page turning, you're re-reading the last bit to try and understand where the plot is going and if what you're reading has any significance to it. Afraid, I've abondoned it after the first few chapters - got bored to be honest!
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