Carver can't believe his luck when he's adopted by Mr. Hawking of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. He's always wanted to be a detective and now he has his chance. The agency is currently investigating a series of grisly murders and Carver can't wait to be involved in solving the case. On top of all of this, Carver's first training assignment is to find out about his birth father -- something he's been wondering about for a long time. His only clue is an unsigned, handwritten letter sent years ago to his orphanage.
However, Carver's excitement about his new life soon turns to confusion and uneasiness. Mr. Hawking lives in a mental assylum where he claims he studies patients to understand how criminals think -- but his bizarre and sometimes frightening behaviour makes Carver wonder if he should actually be one of the patients. The head of the Pinkerton Agency is hiding information about the murder investigation from the police. And it seems as though the letter from Carver's father may have some kind of connection to the recent murders.
It isn't long before Carver gets his wish to be a part of the murder investigation -- but now that he's hot on the trail of Jack the Ripper, it's turning out to be far more dangerous and personal that he'd expected.
I'm always on the lookout for mysteries that follow the classic "whodunit" formulas. This one sounded like it had good potential -- especially with the connection to Jack the Ripper. And yep, I enjoyed it as Carver looked for and figured out the clues and I loved all the intrigue surrounding the character of Jack the Ripper. Petrucha includes some of the real letters written by the Ripper, as well as the names of his real murder victims. While some of the plot is pretty predictable (a former bully becomes friends with Carver and helps him with solving the case, Carver falls in love with an old friend from his orphanage) I think he did a pretty good job with developing the characters. Carver's thoughts and actions are believable and the mysterious Mr. Hawking puts enough suspense into the story so that you question his true motives and identity until the end. Things did drag a bit near the middle of the book but there's some good action and surprises in the latter half of the book.
All in all, it's a good, clean mystery (no sex and minimal violence) and yes, there is a sequel.
Check out his website for the trailer for Ripper, as well as excerpts from his other books and comics. I didn't realize he'd written so many parodies and I'm definitely going to check out Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring...