Chasing the Ripper by Patricia Cornwell

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Once again Patricia Cornwell takes up the pen to discuss the case of Jack the Ripper. This is a single edition, only forty-seven pages long, in which she defends her assertion that William Sickert was Jack the Ripper. To her credit, while she does rehash some of her original research, she also adds some new information. Not content to leave well enough alone she has continued her investigation of both the Ripper crimes and Sickert.

William Sickert was a renowned British painter (born in Germany) who is considered key in the transition from Impressionism to Modernism. He was actually a student of James Whistler.

Cornwell’s determined defense of her allegations against Sickert caused fervid responses from Ripperologists as well those who appreciate Sickert’s art. This seems to be her response to her detractors.

In addition to restating her case she writes of how her life was affected by the original book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed. While her determination can be admired it is a little disturbing that she feels it necessary to devote a portion of her book to defending her opinion.

It isn’t likely that we will ever know the true identity of Springheel Jack (a name I particularly like). Opinions will be proclaimed and so-called proofs will be offered. In the end Jack has claimed his position in the dark and poverty stricken history of Victorian London’s Whitechapel. Perhaps it is the mystery of Red Jack that makes books and films about him so appealing. If we ever learn the truth, we might be very disappointed.

I would recommend this short book to anyone enraptured by the Ripper history. Otherwise, give it a pass. The new revelations aren’t worth the cost of the book. Two stars, one for good writing and one for research.

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