Catherine, a fifteen year old runaway, stumbles into a seedy brothel-house tavern in the back streets of Whitechapel, London. She hesitates at the scene before her, one filled with low class prostitutes and drunkards, but it is late, and the dimly-lit labyrinthine alleyways are filled with deviant fellows and petty criminals.
Weary and hungry, she meets Eddie, the rugged young tavern boy who shows her to a room for the night. She settles down only to be awoken in the early hours by piercing cries from the room next door. Arising to find the cause of the commotion, she becomes witness to a gruesome abortion.
Filled with revulsion, Catherine decides to flee as soon as daylight arrives, but Eddie quickly soothes her fears and convinces her to stay, arranging for her to meet Madame Davenport, the nefarious brothel-mistress who employs Catherine as a serving girl, under the proviso she begins work ‛servicing’ men once she is settled in.
Difficulties arise, however, when Eddie’s growing romantic affections for Catherine clash with her sudden infatuation for the dashing middle-class gent, Mr Cross. Unknown to Catherine, the lothario is keeping a diary of his affairs with Whitechapel’s whores, with the dishonourable intention of turning his writing into a successful ‛gentleman’s, publication.’ Mr Cross quickly seduces the fresh young virgin, allowing his sexual fantasies to escalate into an unfathomable obsession.
As Catherine tries her hardest to fit into the ways of life at the lodging house, she encounters only jealousy from Eddie, and resentment from the other prostitutes who reside there. Annie, in particular, dislikes the new girl who has blossoming beauty and youth on her side.
Unexpectedly one night, a crime occurs within the narrow landing of George Yard Buildings. Local prostitute Martha Tabram is found brutally hacked to death by a cruel assailant. The police can unearth no explainable motive. The Victorian crime stuns the entire Whitechapel district, causing widespread panic amongst the prostitutes who each fear for their own lives.
Catherine’s anxiety increases when Edward Cross begins to show signs of ‘odd’ sexual behaviour and mental decline, as he brutally tries to expunge the girl of her virtues. When two more gruesome murders occur in the area, the prostitutes realise that there is no escape from the vicious killer who calls himself Jack The Ripper. But who is he? And who will be the next Jack victim?
I am a big fan of all things Jack The Ripper - I love watching any TV dramas about that period of time, I particularly love the Johnny Depp film 'From Hell' and I even started watching Ripper Street in the hope that it would be about Jack - it wasn't but I still loved it nonetheless.
Whilst what Jack The Ripper did to his victims was completely abhorrent, the case is so interesting because he was never identified - although many names have been floated about for years. It seems plenty of people nowadays have a keen interest in the case of Jack The Ripper - and so Sarah dutifully passed this review copy onto me in the hope it would be of interest to me.
Previous TV shows and films about Jack The Ripper have usually identified Jack as one of the real life people who found themselves accused back then. This book uses fictional characters instead and so all previous assumptions or suspicions you may have about the identity of Jack The Ripper go out the window.
The story begins with Catherine Bell fleeing from her aunt's house after her aunt's flit in the dead of night, leaving Catherine with bills to pay and no money to pay them with. She stumbles into Edward Cross, a middle-class gentleman and after making their apologies, she stumbles into the Boars Inn.
It is quite clear from the outset that this brief encounter with Edward Cross may be Catherine's first but it certainly won't be her last. Whilst appearing charming when we first meet him, we soon see a different side to him which Catherine herself is not oblivious to and she soon becomes even more suspicious of him when local prostitutes start getting murdered.
I loved Catherine as a character, although I did find her naivety when it came to Eddie, the tavern boy, a little irritating - she knew he liked her and knew that he was taking her actions as something more than what they were yet she always seemed so shocked and upset when he or Annie were short with her - why could she not just say that she wanted to be friends or realise that they were angry because it seemed like she was messing with his feelings?
I loved the way Carla portrayed the prostitutes who lived in the brothel of Boars Inn - most versions talk about prostitutes of that time in a horrid and demeaning manner, however Carla does well to remind you that these ladies are people too - and haven't always had it easy themselves.
The ending was an almighty shocker - and whilst I had worked out who Jack was a couple of chapters before the end, it is a fantastic read as we find out the reasonings why.
I was very impressed with this book, not least because it is based on a topic that I love. I will definitely be reading more of Carla Acheson's work. Fantastic.
Where to Purchase The Whitechapel Virgin
About the Author
Carla lives in Gibraltar with her family and is a member of the Freelance Writers Association. She works as a book reviewer and has interviewed and published book reviews and articles for best-selling and award-winning authors. Her articles and reviews have been featured in various press publications, as well as Waterstones Quarterly UK Magazine.
Her debut fiction novel ‘The Last Gift’ released October 2012, is available on both Kindle and paperback.
Carla is also the founder of the Rock Writers Group formed in Gibraltar in 2009.
Music production, singing, reading and writing have always been the main essential ingredients in Carla’s life.