Review of The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star [Shades of London]
by Maureen Johnson
Middle School, High School     Putnam     370 pp.
9/11     978-0-399-25660-8     $16.99      g

Upon arriving in London from Louisiana for the school year, high-school senior Rory is told that someone “pulled a Jack the Ripper” the night before. She assumes the phrase is some quaint British colloquialism she has yet to learn, not an actual reference to a gruesome murder committed on the same date — August 31 — and in the same location. The smart, breezy, self-deprecating narration and textured boarding school atmosphere provide easy entrance to this increasingly eerie murder mystery in which the only sure thing is the schedule — Jack’s. On September 8, the anniversary of the Ripper’s second strike, police find another body near Wexford, Rory’s school. Johnson raises the stakes even further after Rory has a near-death experience, starts seeing people her classmates don’t, and falls in with a ragtag undercover group investigating the possibility that the murders have a paranormal explanation. Suspenseful and utterly absorbing, this first book in the Shades of London series will leave readers glad that Johnson, like her copycat killer, plans to return to the scene of the crime.

From the September/October 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Christine M. Heppermann About Christine M. Heppermann

Christine Heppermann’s Backyard Witch: Sadie’s Story (Greenwillow), co-authored with Ron Koertge and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, will be published in July 2015.



  1. Am I really the only person deeply troubled by the idea that there should be an “easy entrance” via a “smart, breezy, self-deprecating narration” for teenagers to the vile, psychopathic and deeply misogynistic ‘Jack the Ripper’ evisceration murders?

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Probably not, but I guess I don’t see this as any different from detective stories, which do depend on someone being MURDERED for the plot to commence. And those books are frequently funny.

    Plus, if you’ve spent anytime with my black-humored Irish Catholic family at funerals, you’d think that Maureen Johnson was Katherine Paterson in comparison.

  3. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    but can we talk about the pandering cover, representing as it does neither heroine nor antagonist?

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  1. […] Johnson! Another fun fan trailer, plus a great review from the Horn Book (UPDATE: It’s their Online Review of the Week!): Upon arriving in London from Louisiana for the school year, high-school senior Rory is told that […]

  2. […] the Ghostbusters, return and regroup after defeating a spectral Jack the Ripper copycat killer in Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. In the sequel The Madness Underneath, Rory hesitates to use her new supernatural ability to […]

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