Review: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) by Kerri Maniscalco

Author:  Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
33784373Publication Date:  4th September 2018
Source: book (paperback)


Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.
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*This review may contain spoilers for the previous book*
After their investigation on Jack the Ripper, Thomas Cresswell and Audrey Rose Wadsworth were accepted to study in a prestigious school for forensic sciences in Romania. Audrey Rose is still in great pain after the trauma she suffered at the hands of the Ripper and Thomas believes this will help her to get better.
When they final arrive in Bran Castle, where the feared father of the strigoi (vampires) once lived and where their new school is located, they are faced with the reality of new mysteries to investigate. After a series of bodies are found, depleted of blood and with a stake through their hearts, a rumour arises that Vlad Dracula is back from the dead and killing again.
Audrey Rose finds herself investigating these murders in order not only to prove herself to a disbelieving headmaster as well as to prove that no strigoi are walking around and killing people. Both Audrey and Thomas find themselves in the midst of a mystery that seems to have no solution.
One very positive aspect of this book is its setting. Set in Bran Castle, in Romania, during Winter and close to Christmas there is a special tone to the story. You can feel the castle's corridors cold and crisp air, you can smell the decaying corpses on the morgue, you can imagine the all-white landscape that surrounds these characters as they try to dispprove the existence of mythical beings. The very history of Bran Castle and its relation to Romanian history and folklore, and the way that plotline is inserted into the story make it even more of a great setting for this story, amplifying its grotesque details.
Thomas Cresswell continues to be a very important character. His charm and intelligence never fail, unless in situations related to his feelings for Audrey. The duality of a person who is quite keen on everything that is scientific and palpable but fails when it comes to sensibility and even his own feelings make him not only believable but also closer to the reader. A perfect character would not be as interesting as someone who has their faults, that begin to come out more as the story progresses.
Audrey Rose seems to be dealing with some manifestation of PTSD and also with her own dark, painful feelings that she does not know quite how to handle. She never stops being the badass female character she was in the first book but added to it, she becomes the example of someone who is dealing with grief. The author does not shy away from the ugliness and toughness of grieving. Still, there is a realistic portrayal of a person trying to move on with her life after a traumatic event.
Non regarding the mystery aspect of it, I would say this book is about how Thomas' and Audrey's relationship evolves. It never ceases to be interesting to read about a relationship between two people constrained by their society and how they try to surpass that. Their feelings and attraction grow as well as their understanding of each other and their mutual respect. Societal barriers start to become blurry or even non-existent. Still, there is work to be done in their relationship (or lack of it).
The reader gets to know more about the characters from the previous book and gets a glimpse at Thomas' family life. We meet Daciana Cresswell, the sensual and deeply intelligent sister of Thomas. Not forgetting the mystery, which is immersive and interesting. It may be that I am a bit obtuse but I was not able to discover the solution until the very end.
Overall this is a very well written and well-researched book that continues to tell the reader about the characters introduced in the first instalment. There is great feminist representation in a time period where it sometimes feels there was none and there is also LGBT representation, as well as social taboos. It is certainly a great historical mystery and I really want to keep reading this series and see what this leads to.

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