Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  24,164 ratings  ·  1,055 reviews
Between August and November 1888 five women were murdered in Whitechapel. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear for months in the East End, and gave rise to the sobriquet which was to become shorthand for a serial killer - Jack the Ripper.

For over a hundred years the identity of the killer has remained on the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. Until n...more
Paperback, 468 pages
Published 2003 by Time Warner (first published 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
For weeks, I attempted to finish Patricia Cornwell's "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed" I haven't written a real book review, (or even been inclined to write one,) since High School English Lit., but this book frustrated me enough to write one.

I've heard from many people what a wonderful piece of forensic investigation it is, how interesting, and that it seems the most plausible answer to the question of "whodunit."

It must be confessed, that though I ordinarily like Patricia Co...more
This was not what I expected. I thought it would be a sort of historical re-cap of the Jack the Ripper killings with Cornwell revealing the person that she thought to be the killer, with evidence to substantiate her opinion. I did not expect to be lectured over and over and beaten over the head with her opinion on the identity of the killer.

From what I've read, Cornwell went a little bonky in the head with trying to prove that her guy was the one, spending millions of dollars to acquire paintin...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sezin Koehler
What a phenomenal and utterly disturbing book. I learned:

1) The identity of Jack The Ripper, with 98% certainty, is the British artist Walter Sickert, proven by intense forensic analysis.

2) He not only killed the prostitutes for which he is best known, but possibly 40+ others, including children, men and non-prostitute women, some of whom he hacked to pieces and possibly ate.

3) 1888 London was an absolute shithole and why anyone would have wanted to live in those conditions is beyond me.

4) Scotl...more

I started reading Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed while I was down in Florida, and finally finished it the day before yesterday. I remember reading reviews of the book when it first came out a few years ago, and never picking the book up. I found it by chance in the stacks at my godmother's house, and decided to give it a try.

It's not that I'm not interested in Jack the Ripper. When I was in high school, I could be counted on to track down just about any bo...more
Patricia Cornwell has more money than sense. I can't believe that she spent a million dollars of her own money to research the true identity of Jack the Ripper.....and, despite the title, she has come away with little to no proof - she relies a great deal on mitochondrial DNA evidence that she admits is inconclusive, and paintings done by Sickert years after the fact. Sickert seems to have been an ass, and perhaps he was the Ripper, but Cornwall has done nothing in this book that would allow her...more
Dec 11, 2008 Bérénice rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
(copied from my amazon review)
If a prosecutor went to court and presented a case against Walter Sickert with the evidence the author gives us in this book, the judge would laugh hysterically and require of the prosecutor to chose another profession.

So let's see what are some of the evidence that would make Sickert the killer. He knew a guy who was american and laughed with a "ha ha". In the ripper letters, the ripper writes "ha ha", so he's gotta be Sickert! Or because Sickert occasionally wrot...more
Rebecca Huston
I have to say, I know I am in the minority when I say that I find this argument for artist Walter Sickert to be the Ripper rather convincing. Not everyone is going to agree, and that's ok -- I feel that the truth behind the Ripper killings in 1888 London will remain a mystery for all time. There just isn't enough data out there on the killings to point the finger at one particular person.

All that said, what makes this book so interesting is how Cornwell draws out the pathology of a sociopath. W...more
so, patricia cornwell has solved the ripper case. she's convinced she has; and she doesn't tire to try to convince you, too. which makes portrait of a killer an extremely annoying read. you'll be forced to wade through plenty of the brackwater of standard bourgeois reaction to anything and anybody involved with prostitution (hey compassion - hey contempt!), the standard true-crime-solved insight about the psychological mechanism (yes, singular: one mechanism, and one mechanism only) that produc...more

I decided to read Patricia Cornwell's book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed because I have an interest in Walter Sickert. I continued to read the book, despite the fact that it was by far the most absurd book I've ever read, because I assumed at the turn of every page that it couldn't get any sillier. At some point, I thought, Cornwell would have to present solid evidence that connected Walter Sickert to the Ripper murders. After all, you can't go around accusing people of mur...more
I liked this book because Patricia Cornwall presented quite a stirring case for her argument that the killer was a rather famous artist named Walter Sickert. She compared pictures painted by the artist with photos from the crime scene and of the victims, postmortem, and the similarities gave me shivers! She created this protrait of Sickert with such passion, convinced she really has solved this case, that I couldn't help but get excited, too. It didn't hurt that I read it the week leading up to...more
Jul 28, 2007 Michelle rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: truecrime
I admit to having a great interest in the Jack the Ripper case and have for many years. I was interested to see what Cornwell could come up with as to who could have done the killing. I was thoroughly disappointed with this book. It was basically filled with Cornwell's guesses that she put out as facts. What really set me off was that part of the book where she was walking down the street with her editor (I think) and says, "I know who did it." From then on, I had a feeling I wasn't going to enj...more
Finally I found out who Jack the Ripper was! For the longest time I thought if I ever wanted to know the true identity of Jack the Ripper I would have to go under cover as a man and join the Freemasons to learn all their secrets, since I heard on the Jack the Ripper tour I went on in like 1999 that the only people who really know who Jack the Ripper was are the Freemasons. Needless to say, reading this book has proved a lot easier than my previous plan. Thanks Patricia Cornwell!
Possibly the most horribly "researched" book I've ever read. Case closed, my ass.
Jul 05, 2007 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History and true crime fans
It's interesting to observe how "common knowledge" sometimes lags behind real knowledge. Just the other day, I heard someone on television say what I've heard all my life: that the true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been discovered.

Not true. Patricia Cornwell figured out who he was, made her case compellingly, and closed the file in 2002. The only mystery left in my mind is how some people can read the book and not be convinced. It should not be surprising that the murderer turned out t...more

I'm one of those folks who is forever entranced by the Jack the Ripper saga. Victorian crime in the grimy, fogbound, poverty-ridden streets of London. I've even done the walking tour. So, I picked up this volume with high anticipation.


Prior to this, I had never read a Patricia Cornwell book, so I was not a follower of her mystery books. Safe to say, after making it through this "expose" of the Ripper, I won't be reading any other Cornwell books. She could have made her case fairly quickly...more
Man, I had this whole summer of reading books I thought I'd love but didn't (Da Vinci Code, Under the Banner of Heaven, and this). So I wasn't quite as disappointed with this one as the other two, but it's not good. I love Patricia Cornwell's mysteries (although they're definitely guilty pleasures), and I love stories about Jack the Ripper (or really anything that takes place in London). But geez, you can't name a book "Case Closed" and then present such a shoddy case. I really hope PC sticks wi...more
After months, I finally buckled and put this one down... I should have taken it into the yard and shot it... It literally was that bad...
I cannot claim to be a Ripperologist, but I have read a fair number of books about the Ripper murders and none so arrogant and uninformative as this. Before I say any more, let me just say that I enjoy Patricia Cornwell's novels, she's a good writer, so I am simply unable to decide what on earth made her write this. In the beginning of this book, the author states that she became interested in the Ripper murders on a visit to London and was soon convinced that the artist Walter Sickert was respo...more
I picked up this book at a used bookstore for like $1 in 2007 and really, I'm embarrassed to admit that I really didn't know much about Jack the Ripper until I read the book. And by "not much," I mean I thought it was a fiction book. After all, I was buying a bunch of other Cornwell novels so why would I think that she had delved into non-fiction? Egh, lesson learned (and now there are also smartphones so if I find myself in a used bookstore confronted with a book that I'm not sure is fiction or...more
J.W. Thompson
I am constantly supprised by the range of Cornwell's writing. I am a loyal fan of her books and this one took me by surprise. It has been on my to read book shelf for a while as I pursue my own writing career. I finally read it and was shocked as to why no one else had put this together. I think she really found the real idenity of Jack The Ripper, so many years after the crimes occured. My hat is off to Cornwell for her research and writing skills. While many may still disagree with her conclus...more
Jef Cozza
Cornwell presents a compelling case arguing that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. But, as the author admits, she still leaves a few stones unturned. In particular, her use of DNA evidence is highly suggestive, but I would have liked to see her pursue this angle to a (hopefully) more conclusive end prior to publishing her book.

Likewise, her analysis of the Ripper letters and comparison with Sickert's own writing style is definitely suggestive, but she stops short of "Closing the Case." Given...more
Hey lady! Don't write a book saying you solved a case when the best you can do every other line is something "probably" or "may certainly" have happened.
Julia Simpson-Urrutia
I thought this book and the research that went into it was both fascinating and convincing. The objections of other critics struck me as childish: some complain that it is boring (plowing through circumstantial and direct evidence CAN be boring, ask any detective) and others pouted about having a "great" artist framed as a killer. I got the distinct impression many who slammed the book did not read all of it.

Cornwell is a very good writer. I felt she carefully balanced her presentation of the ne...more
Caroline Barker
Patricia Cornwell may be a brilliant author, however I do not deem this book to be brilliant. To actually have printed on the front cover 'Case Closed' and to say that no more looking needs to be done is completely farcical. I agree with other views that she has admitted on many a page that the evidence she found in many areas was inconclusive or not 100% accurate, so how she justifies that she has found the true Jack after a century plus has gone by leaves me gobsmacked.

There are insights into...more
Carol Littlejohn
I don't read Patricia Cornwell's books because I'm not a fan of murder fiction. I prefer nonfiction to fiction. However, this book is a nonfiction book about Jack the Ripper, a serial killer in Victorian London during the 1880's. Cornwell believes the killer is painter/actor Walter Richard Sickert. She gives enough evidence to convince the reader, including DNA evidence. As an aside: I read this book many years ago (and have just reread it), and I remember coming across Sickert's name in another...more
Vicky (Books, Biscuits, and Tea)
Originally reviewed at:

Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer was actually the very first audiobook I’ve ever listened to and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. On top of that, it was also the very first book I’ve read (well, listened to) from the true crime genre. I’m a huge fan of crime fiction but true crime is something I’ve never tried before and I’m glad I did now.

The thing I liked the most about this particular edition is narration. For me, a good narrator is crucial. Every time I dec...more
I would give this a 2.5. I enjoyed learning in more detail about the circumstances surrounding the crimes and the nature of a psychopath. I didn't like, however, the assertion that this case was closed and she'd figured out that the Ripper was painter Walter Sickert. I appreciate her research, but so much of the evidence was circumstantial. One cannot tie someone to violent thoughts because their art has violent themes. Many writers, artists, photographers, etc, explore darker themes because tha...more
Apr 24, 2010 Lee rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Jack the Ripper
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I love Patricia Cornwell's fiction books...and that's where I think her strength is...in fiction. Portrait of a Killer is an interesting account of her discoveries while investigating the 114 year old Jack the Ripper case. Cornwell asserts that the identity of Jack the Ripper is Walter Richard Sickert, case closed. I find this a bold pronouncement considering that Cornwell did not provide the reader with one definite shred of evidence that clearly and unequivocably pointed to Sickert as the Ripp...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper 6 43 Jul 23, 2013 08:11PM  
Patricia on the used shelves much? 5 41 Sep 28, 2012 12:30PM  
Newspaper ads 4 20 Oct 19, 2011 11:51PM  
  • Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of America's Youngest Serial Killer
  • The Evil That Men Do: FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood's Journey into the Minds of Serial Killers
  • Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder
  • The Cases That Haunt Us
  • Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders
  • The Complete History of Jack the Ripper
  • Alone With the Devil: Famous Cases of a Courtroom Psychiatrist
  • Without Pity: Ann Rule's Most Dangerous Killers
  • The Search for the Green River Killer
  • The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft,  and Detection
  • Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers
  • House Of Secrets
  • Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of the Serial Killer Next Door
  • Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England
  • The Devil's Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers
  • Forensic Detective: How I Cracked the World's Toughest Cases
  • Abandoned Prayers: The Incredible True Story of Murder, Obsession and Amish Secrets
Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. At her first signing, held during a lunch break from the morgue, Patricia sold no copies of Postmortem and fielded exactly one question – an elderly woman asked her where she could find the cookbooks.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Cre...more
More about Patricia Cornwell...
Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1) Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4) The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5) Body of Evidence (Kay Scarpetta, #2) Point of Origin (Kay Scarpetta, #9)

Share This Book

“And suddenly the world was filled with wooden faces and flat voices - and, you were alone.” 6 likes
More quotes…