The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Okay, so I was going to review these books separately, but everything I wanted to say seemed like a comparison of the two, so it made more sense to join them up like this. I really, really enjoyed these books. The Name of the Star, the first one, has a much stronger story but The Madness Underneath was more enjoyable overall. The story in The Madness Underneath sort of fizzled out halfway through, or rather never really got going properly, but I think Johnson is setting up the foundations for the story of the next book. The second book was more about the people, about Rory coming to terms with her new life and skills and figuring out where she wanted to go. It also has one of the most infuriating endings I've ever read. Seriously, I can't even begin to explain how much I need the third book right now.
The other thing that was very noticeable to me as a British reader, was how well Johnson nailed that aspect of it. Rory's just arrived in London for the very first time and is encountering British people. Normally when this happens, it's all tea and lah-di-da, but she created a very good depiction of British habits and speech tics and whatever else. I was really impressed, mostly because I'd been wary of this very thing when I picked up the book. This did slip a little in The Madness Underneath, where tea seemed to be mentioned on every other bloody page, but overall it was done very well.
I don't have very much else to say because I'm wary of spoilers - believe me, I could gush about these books for hours - but go and read them. Immediately. And then come back so we can talk about them together. Oh! And also go follow Maureen on twitter, because she's awesome. I followed her for months before I finally got around to reading some of her books, and her writing is just as entertaining as her tweeting.