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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  29,615 Ratings  ·  1,300 Reviews
Now updated with new material that brings the killer's picture into clearer focus.

In the fall of 1888, all of London was held in the grip of unspeakable terror.  An elusive madman calling himself Jack the Ripper was brutally butchering women in the slums of London’s East End.  Police seemed powerless to stop the killer, who delighted in taunting them and whose crimes were
Mass Market Paperback, 383 pages
Published November 2003 by Berkley (first published 2002)
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Lynn Cornwell addresses this in her "Coda" to the book:

"I have grave about a recent claim that DNA proves Jack the Ripper was a Polish immigrant named…more
Cornwell addresses this in her "Coda" to the book:

"I have grave about a recent claim that DNA proves Jack the Ripper was a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski. The origin of this genetic evidence is a large piece of blue silk material described as a 'shawl' that purportedly was found with the mutilated body of Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. The first insurmountable problem is that no such article of clothing or anything similar to this 'shawl' is referenced in the original documentation about any of the Ripper's murders. There's no no such detail listed in police reports, and a crime scene sketch made while the body was still at the scene doesn't show a shawl--certainly not one seven or eight feet long and made out of blue silk. (I've heard that it looks more like a decorative table runner than a shawl.)
"I don't blame anyone for testing an item that maybe--just maybe--was associated with the Ripper case. But there doesn't seem to be a proven provenance of this segment of cloth, which has been handled by countless people over the years. I personally know of at least two individuals who tell me they examined it without wearing gloves. Who else did? Unless the DNA analysis withstands the peer review of forensic scientists, we really can't consider the results credible."

Karen: The second edition of the book (2017) followed 15 years of additional research by Cornwell and contains a great deal of new material. See my review at
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Community Reviews

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Mar 26, 2008 Stacey rated it did not like it
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
Oct 19, 2008 Chris rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 25, 2007 Angie rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2007
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
Sezín 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

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
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
Jan 17, 2012 Anthony rated it did not like it

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
Aug 29, 2007 Erin rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, book-club
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 it was ok
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
Aug 17, 2008 Shauna rated it did not like it
Possibly the most horribly "researched" book I've ever read. Case closed, my ass.
Oct 12, 2014 Carla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Patricia Cornwell apresenta na obra “Jack, o Estripador – Retrato de um Assassino”, o que eu considero ser apenas “mais uma” teoria acerca da identidade de Jack, o Estripador.
Não apreciei a estrutura narrativa do livro que pretende ser um “documento” em que se deslinda a identidade do homem que cometeu a série de assassínios brutais no East End de Londres (e possivelmente noutros locais) a partir de 1888… As ideias, os factos, as asserções por vezes não têm grande ligação entre si, sendo introd
Jul 19, 2007 Jenifer rated it liked it
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
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.
Mar 11, 2012 Alyss rated it did not like it
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...
May 17, 2013 GoldGato rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, winter, crime

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
Aug 20, 2007 Kph rated it it was ok
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
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Buddy read with the awesome Sarah! We read different publications of the same book, which I initially thought was a completely different book.

Disclaimer: I recently had a med adjustment, so I've been really drowsy until my body adjusts (usually about 2 weeks), so I'm not sure how much this is me vs the book. I need to re-read this one eventually. I also skimmed starting 50% in. If it wasn't for the buddy read, I would have put this one on hiatus until I was in a better head space.

-She reall
Jun 24, 2007 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  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
James Glass
Aug 24, 2015 James Glass rated it really liked it
Patricia Cornwell delves into the Jack the Ripper case. There's probably not many adults in this world who don't know the name of the serial killer who murdered women in the White Chapel District in London.
She claims to have identified who The Ripper was. I believe her insight and knowledge of the murders, papers, and other evidence during the killings is very well portrayed in her book. I'm not entirely convinced the true killer is identified, but of all the evidence and other books I've read
The day of Christine’s funeral was blustery and cold, and the procession was late. Sickert didn’t pour her ashes into her grave. He dug his hands inside the urn and flung them into the wind, which blew them onto the coats and into the face of his friends.

Who was Christine? Sickert’s third wife… and who was Sickert??? The world famous artist… and a psychopathic serial killer calling himself, “Jack The Ripper”… who killed the innocent in many ways. Most of the victims were children and women. Afte
Jul 04, 2007 Donna rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 01, 2007 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2009 Erika rated it liked it
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!
Jun 04, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2014 Cherryonion rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014
I had to give up on this one after just over 100 pages. I didn't like the writing style and I was quite bored. The story didn't really follow any kind of timeline or logical progression, it was all over the place. I was also disappointed because I expected it to be more scientific, with actual facts, but it seems to be what the author's personal opinions are based on very circumstantial evidence. She herself admits on numerous occassions that there was no evidence to back up whatever she was tal ...more
Thomas Strömquist
Cornwell is somewhat of a "guilty pleasure" for me as a number of the Scarpetta novels really got me hooked and "Hornet's Nest" and "Southern Cross" are better still. The Jack the Ripper case is of course both horrifying and fascinating and I picked up the books with some high hopes. Unfortunately, none were met. Cornwell goes about her task the "wrong way": after introducing "her" killer, she dedicates the book to nag us into believing what she believes, and not successfully either. The basic p ...more
J.W. Thompson
Aug 07, 2010 J.W. Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Claudia Gray
Jun 08, 2013 Claudia Gray rated it it was ok
Patricia Cornwell is an author I both admire and enjoy, which is one reason why reading JACK THE RIPPER- CASE CLOSED is so mind boggling. Cornwell claims to have identified Jack the Ripper more than a century after the fact and even prefaces the book with a passage where she is tormented about accusing even a dead man (painter Walter Sickert) of such ghastly crimes, and considers not publishing this book. But in the end, she says, she had to publish it, because she knows the truth. She's sure of ...more
Disclaimer: I've only read about half so if you're able to give convincing reasons why my rating is absolutely unjustified and the second half will get so much better I will try to read the second half, too. Until then let my just say:

Oh what a pile of pretentious crap.

I honestly don't know where to start with my rage because while reading there wasn't a single moment where I didn't feel the need to throw this book against a wall.
It's probably best to start with the biggest issue, concerning thi
Jan 09, 2016 Lainy rated it liked it
Time taken to read - 2 days

Publisher - Time Warner

Pages - 451

Blurb from the back cover

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 one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. Until now. Using her formidable range of
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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper 6 50 Jul 23, 2013 08:11PM  
Patricia on the used shelves much? 5 49 Sep 28, 2012 12:30PM  
Newspaper ads 4 24 Oct 19, 2011 11:51PM  
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  • The Devil's Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers
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  • The Complete Jack the Ripper
Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, in 1990 while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Postmortem, was the first bona fide forensic thriller. It paved the way for an explosion of entertainment featuring in all things forensic across film, television and literature.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony,
More about Patricia Cornwell...

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“And suddenly the world was filled with wooden faces and flat voices - and, you were alone.” 9 likes
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