F.R.'s Reviews > The Complete Jack the Ripper

The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow
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's review
Sep 11, 2015

really liked it

The last time I read this unsensational guide to Jack the Ripper I was a, no doubt quite morbid, teenager. Reading it as a more well rounded adult (one hopes anyway), I have to say that it holds up really well. Originally published in 1975, former police officer Rumbelow sifts his way through the evidence in a way that is dispassionate and avoids outlandish theories (which makes it somewhat odd that the introduction to my edition is by Colin Wilson, a man always fond of outlandish theories. But no doubt that can be explained by how nice the author is to Wilson in the text). This is not a book to solve the Ripper case, but instead possibly the best compilation of evidence and theories to exist.

Rumbelow is particularly good at capturing late Victorian London, and the forgotten corner of it that was the East End. He brings out the life of the average Whitechapel prostitute, and as much information as he can about the lives of the victims. And, he’s quite sympathetic towards the police (even when he acknowledges that some of what they did was inexplicable) trying, as they were, to solve this huge case with really primitive tools. After all, there were no fingerprints, DNA or CCTV in 1888. This is a scholarly and expert work, which hasn’t dated as much as I thought it might – after all, anything ‘new’ that emerged about the Ripper after this long a time would have to be treated with a fair degree of scepticism.

As for who did it? Well, Rumbelow states a belief (which I actually share) that if in some magical afterlife the name of the Ripper is revealed, all these Ripper hunters with their prize theories are going to hear that name and then let out a baffled: “Who?”
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10/06/2016 marked as: read

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