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Thursday, December 15, 2016

“The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”, by Stuart Evans & Keith Skinner

692 pages, Carroll & Graf, ISBN-13: 978-0786707683

More a reference book for specialists than an introduction to Jack the Ripper’s crimes for general readers, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia is a compendium of primary sources that includes inquest transcripts, police reports and memos, contemporary newspaper accounts, letters (purportedly) from the Ripper himself, crime scene photographs, and other illustrations. Forget all the other Jack the Ripper books you have read in the past that focus on a particular suspect, and instead read the original source material provided in this book, for after having read the unadulterated, unedited primary source material culled from the Ripper Files and first hand newspaper accounts of the inquests, you will get a much truer picture of what took place than you will from the other books. Sadly, you won’t find much in the way of new evidence in this book, though you may be able to resolve in your mind certain disputes, such as the degree of anatomical knowledge the Ripper had, whether or not he wrote the Goulston Street Graffiti, or whether-or-not he was involved with both murders of the “double event”. But you will also find pages of minutiae better left out; for instance, should the police have offered a reward for information from the public, or no? That this question might prove of historical interest to someone studying the police administration of the times may very well be true, but it provides nothing towards furthering the inquiry of the case for the rest of us. An index and detailed table of contents make the material easy to navigate, while an appendix gives useful biographies of senior police and Home Office officials involved in the investigation. Familiar suspects who were considered at the time – such as Montague John Druitt or George Chapman – appear, but suspects identified by later theorists – such Walter Sickert or the Duke of Clarence – do not. If you are looking for truth rather than entertainment value, this is one of the top books on the Ripper that you can find.

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