This book is Isabel Allende’s attempt to write a murder mystery, to follow in the footsteps of her lawyer-turned-writer husband, William C. Gordon. I had read some pretty negative reviews of this book, so I did not have high hopes for it. Well, maybe because I was not expecting much, I quite enjoyed this book. As a mystery, it does not maintain tension throughout the way you would expect. As an Isabel Allende book, it does have what I usually enjoy in her novels: quirky characters, many of them part of an extended family, amazing coincidences, some magic and a light, bubbly atmosphere. I suppose that “murder mystery” and “light, bubbly atmosphere” don’t quite go together, and that may account for some people’s disappointment with the book.
One of the main characters is Indiana Jackson, an alternative health care provider who occupies an office in a holistic health clinic. In her immediate entourage, we find her teenaged daughter Amanda, her father whom they live with, her jealous lover Alan, her loyal friends Mike and Pedro, a cafe waiter called Danny who likes to sing disguised as a woman, an psychiatrist/astrologer who lives in a one-of-a-kind house. Amanda’s father is a police investigator who provides the link to the murders that are discussed, who are also being investigated by Amanda and her online friends that she connects with through a role-playing game called Ripper.
A series of seemingly disconnected murders occur in the San Francisco area and Amanda suggests that her father investigate them as the work of a serial killer. As we get closer to the end of the book, there are more and more hints as to who the killer might be… Some of the outcomes could have been predictable but I did let myself get surprised at some of the twists and turns in the end, and there was a sad moment that I did not see coming. The end is quite bittersweet.
Allende, Isabel. El juego de Ripper. Vintage Español, Nueva York, 2014.