Tag Archives: Jack the Ripper

The Ripper and the Royals

18 May

“The Ripper and the Roylals” by Melvin Fairclough is a fascinating look at the crimes of Jack the Ripper, with ‘evidence’ supplied by Walter Sickert’s son, Joseph.

If you have seen the movie “Murder by Decree” starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason, as well as the TV mini-series “Jack the Ripper” starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, then you pretty much know what this book is going to deliver.

The evidence delivered is interesting, compelling almost, but also completely impossible to prove. The evidence includes diaries purported to have been written by Freddie Abberline. As I said, impossible to prove. However, the case stated, whilst highly improbable, is by no means impossible.

For anyone who believes that level of conspiracy could not have been kept quiet, Fairclough makes the very valid point that several members of the Queen’s own family were committed to insane asylums with the news only coming out in the 1980s. I remember when that news broke.

The result is a book that is a genuinely interesting read. Well worth obtaining a copy. I would say it is almost a must read for those interested in the Ripper’s crimes, and the machinations of Victorian society.

Highly recommended.

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper

10 Oct

“The Complete History of Jack the Ripper” by Philip Sugden was a frustrating book to read.

On one hand the book was a carefully researched and well written look at the murders, including possible suspects, witness reports, police reports, post mortem reports etc, making the book a fascinating read.

On the other hand, the author spent a lot of time bagging the work of other Ripperologists. I felt that it was detrimental to the book. To me it broke up the information flow and irritated me no end.

If you can ignore that aspect, then the book is a worthwhile read.

The Real Mary Kelly

7 Feb

Written by Wynne Weston-Davies, “The Real Mary Kelly” is the story of Elizabeth Weston-Davies, who was the real Mary Kelly. Even at the time of her murder police considered her name to be false but could not find the real woman. The real woman who was the final victim of the killer known as Jack the Ripper.

Wynne Weston-Davies, her great-nephew, sets out to bring his great-aunt to life. From her time as lady’s maid to the Marchioness of Londonderry, to an expensive brothel in Kensington, to an ill-advised marriage, to France, to the East End of London, and, finally, to her violent and gruesome death.

Wynne Weston-Davies has written and interesting and well-researched book that gives a degree on insight into the life of the woman that history knows as “Mary Kelly” and also to the man that we believes killed her and the other woman in those dreadful months of 1888.

Well worth a read. recommended.

Jack the Ripper: Case Closed

31 Aug

In ‘Jack the Ripper: Case Closed’ by Gyles Brandreth, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle set out to examine the suspects in the Ripper case and solve the crimes once and for all.

The book is narrated in the first person by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was a weird experience for me reading a book where one of my favourite authors is actually a character.

Gyles Brandreth gets right inside the skin of Oscar Wilde. His Wilde is thoroughly believable and syncs well with what we know of Wilde’s actual character.

The ending, not to give away any spoilers, is both satisfying and unsatisfying on a number of levels. I could get behind the idea of the killer, but not the motive. The politics of the situation I could accept quite easily.

A delicious Victorian romp.

Jack the Ripper Museum

22 May

I’ve just got back from another mind blowing trip to London.

If you get to go, and have some interest in the subject, may I recommend to you the Jack the Ripper Museum at 12 Cable Street in London’s East End?

Opened in 2015, the sometimes controversial museum looks at the Ripper killings, but with emphasis on the women, NOT the killer.

Some of the exhibits came from the family of Police Constable Watkins, the man who found Catherine Eddowes body.  And the first exhibit you will see is a reconstruction of that event.

There is a reconstruction of Mary Jane Kelly’s bedroom right at the top of the building.  I freely admit that this room is eerie and both my friend Rebecca and myself felt more than a little odd in that room.

Right in the basement is a reconstruction of a mortuary, complete with post mortem table, body drawers, and stained glass from a local mortuary where the post mortems of some of the victims were carried out.  The stained wooden table sits starkly in the middle of the room, like a physical slap in the face to the sensibilities.

This room feels almost sacred.  a beautiful tribute to the women who were killed is laid around the walls.  With post mortem photographs where available.  This is the human face of inhuman behaviour.

If Ross is on the counter when you leave, make sure you make time to chat with him (if the place isn’t busy).  He is knowledgable, interesting, and fun.  He also has a quite awesome photo on his phone of a ghostly presence photographed there.  Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it is quite something to see.  And possibly haunt your dreams.

If you have the time, pay the extra money, and go on the hour and a half walking tour in the afternoon.  This REALLY brings it home when you get an understanding for the distances and places.  The tour takes you through parts of Whitechapel that are every bit as terrifying as they were in 1888, though possibly much cleaner.

The Jack the Ripper Museum is quite possibly the best specialist museum in London.


I, Ripper

29 Aug

“I, Ripper” by Stephen Hunter was recommended to me by one of my GoodReads friends, Hannah.  Hannah has excellent taste.

This is probably not a book I would have picked up if left to my own devices, but on her recommendation I got a copy from the library and I’m glad I did.

“I, Ripper” is told from both the point of view of Jack the Ripper from his personal diaries, and from the notes of a reporter from the Star newspaper, Jeb, interspersed with letters written by one of the Whitechapel unfortunates.

Even though everyone knows about the killings, if not the details, I would still call this book a thriller.  Because, believe me, even though you know the crimes, you will get caught in the twists and turns as Jeb tries to identify the man killing the whores of Whitechapel.

The last few chapters are startling, amazing, shocking, and horrifying by turns.  I worked out who the Ripper was, but the real identity of Jeb, left me stunned.

Brilliant book.  A must for all ripperologists, and all fans of Victorian crime fiction.


16 Nov

“Mayhem” by Sarah Pinborough is a novel that  looks at a little known series of crimes that were being committed in London at the same time as the Ripper murders.  The Thames Torso Murders.

The book starts with the remains of a woman being discovered where Scotland Yard is being built (this really did happen).

At first, the book appears to be a normal crime novel…then things take a twist into the dark and paranormal.

The main character is Dr Thomas Bond, who was a real person.  Considered by many to be the first criminal profiler.  He created the first profile of Jack the Ripper.  He was Police Surgeon for A Division (Westminster) under whose purvey the Thames Torso Killings fell.

Much of what happens in the book, with the exception of the horror elements of the story, did actually occur.  Dr Bond’s autopsy of Mary Jane Kelly is quoted, and his profile of the Ripper is quoted in full in the novel.

Several other characters will be recognizable to those interested in the crimes of Jack the Ripper.

This is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a ripper of a novel.  Fast paced, exciting, with an escalating sense of horror that has you on the edge of your seat.

Ms Pinborough has a dark sense of humour which helps take the edge off the fear factor:

“Found dead.  A verdict as useful as a fucking bible in a Bluegate brothel.”

“Of course she was bloody found dead.” Moore grumbled.  “Some bastard cut off her head and her limbs.  If she’d been found alive I would have been more than bloody surprised.”

I am eagerly awaiting her second book in the series “Murder” which is due for release next year.

Note: Apparently the back of the book was incorrect.  “Murder” was released earlier this year.  Am now awaiting my copy from the library.

The Severed Streets

16 Oct

Quill, Costain, Sefton and Ross are back for their second outing in Paul Cornell’s “The Severed Streets”.

In this, the second book of the Shadow Police series, the team have to deal with the return of Jack the Ripper.  Yes, the Ripper is back, but this time he’s targeting white men.  When one particular man is killed, it stops being police work and becomes very personal.  They’ll kick down the doors of Hell itself to get the answers… and vengeance.

In this book we learn a lot more about the Sight and how this occult world that Cornell has created works.

We also meet two fantastic new characters in the shape of The Rat King… and Neil Gaiman.  The wonderful Mr Gaiman has allowed himself to be turned into a character, and I think we’ll be seeing more of him in future books.  What he does you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out.  Let’s just say it is NOT a cameo appearance by any means.

“The Severed Streets” has all the bounce and verve of “London Falling” as well as massive character development, and some seriously wicked repartee.

If you loved “London Falling” then you won’t be disappointed by its sequel.

Highly recommended to all lovers of police procedurals, urban fantasy, and horror.

Jack the Ripper

23 Feb

When Lewis Collins passed away last year, I was reminded of a mini-series he did in 1988 which was a favourite of mine at the time.  The mini-series was “Jack the Ripper” staring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins.

Recently I was able to find it on dvd and purchased it.  I was a little worried that it wouldn’t have stood the test of time (it was made in 1988), but I need not have worried.  It was brilliant.  The series won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe and 26 years later you can still see why it was a winner.  The script was excellent, the casting fantastic, and the direction awesome.

Michael Caine was brilliantly cast as Detective Inspector Freddie Abberline with Lewis Collins as his assistant, Sgt George Godley.  This combination is really what made the mini-series so damn good.  Michael Caine and Lewis Collins had fantastic chemistry.  Godley is annoyed at Abberline’s drinking, but will protect him with every breath he draws, Abberline on the other hand, tolerates and even appreciates Godley’s mother hen instincts, even if he does tease him about it.  The two men are a damn near unstoppable force.

The other casting was nearly as good.  The Ripper’s victims are shown as human.  Not just ciphers or non-entities, as many other Ripper based productions do, where the killer is more important than the victims.

The careful build of a variety of suspects is excellently done as well.  Armand Assante portrayed American actor Richard Mansfield with an almost perfect arrogance.  Ken Bones role of Queen Victoria’s psychic Robert James Lees was also well done.  It was the sort of role where an actor with a tendency to ham it up could do a lot of damage.  Ken Bones was superb.  Robert Lees is portrayed with fire and verve and disconcerting strength, but Ken Bones never allowed him to descend into the vaudevillian fortune teller stereotype.

Susan George as Catherine Eddowes was excellent, as was Lysette Anthony as Mary Jane Kelly.  Lysette’s soft Irish accent was accurate all the way through.  Lysette Anthony was always underrated as an actress.

The actor who played the pimp, Billy, worried me for a while.  I knew his face but couldn’t remember where I’d seen him before.  A trip to imdb this morning revealed he’s Gary Shail who played Steve in “Metal Mickey”, a kid’s show that I never missed.

The only this I found that irritated me a little with “Jack the Ripper”, was the totally unnecessary inclusion of a rather pathetic love interest for Abberline.  An artist named Emma, who was played by Jane Seymour.  A love interest was pointless and the scenes with her only served to slow the pace down and muddy the waters a bit.

“Jack the Ripper” was packed with violence, darkness, and moments of genuine terror, leavened by the warm humour of Abberline and Godley.

After 26 years, “Jack the Ripper” still stands up with the best.  I am glad I managed to get my hands on a copy.  It will be watched many, many times in the future.

Dust And Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr John H. Watson

30 Jan

One of the wonderful things about the GoodReads site is that the friends you make there recommend books to you. My mate Derek recommended “Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr John H. Watson” by Lyndsay Faye to me. I am so very glad he did.

I admit I was worried at first, because Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper has been done to death in both books and film. I need not have worried as “Dust and Shadow” is an excellent Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

The story fairly rips along (sorry) and the original characters have bounce and zest that blends well with Holmes and Watson.

The main attraction of this book to me is that Ms Faye has managed to capture that beautiful friendship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson perfectly. The depth and warmth of the friendship shines through, and if Sherlock Holmes is a little more human than he is in the canon, it only adds lustre to the friendship.

A word on her Inspector Lestrade. Perfect. This is the best literary capture of the inspector I have seen. Too many authors make him a bumbling idiot. Sherlock Holmes himself said in the canon that Lestrade is the best that Scotland Yard has. You get to see that Lestrade in this book.

Ms Faye’s Jack the Ripper research was impeccable, making the story just a little more believable than most of the other Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper outings.

And if you are very, very good, you might pick up on the identity of the Ripper, prior to the big reveal.  It’s a beauty.

I have no hesitation in recommending Dust and Shadows to any Sherlock Holmes fans, Ripperologists, or anyone who enjoys a great Victorian detective yarn.

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