Lori McD's Reviews > Death at Whitechapel

Death at Whitechapel by Robin Paige
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Mar 04, 12

bookshelves: victorian, tough-subject-matter, suspense, series, mystery, historical-fiction, 2012_read, british-lit
Read from March 03 to 04, 2012

I'm giving this one 4 stars, because it really impressed me! Lord Charles Sheridan and his wife Kathryn (Kate) find themselves tracking Jack the Ripper 10 years after the fact. They're drawn into the whole thing by Jenny Churchill, the American-born wife of Lord Randall Churchill and the mother of Winston Church.

Jenny has been blackmailed for years by an unknown person calling himself (or herself) A. Byrd. In fact, the blackmailer has been so prolific in his threats, that Jenny has gone through the entire Churchill fortune and more; she's deeply in debt, and not only because she feels the need to keep up appearances with the Marlborough set, which includes HRH the Prince of Wales. Daisy Wentworth suggests that Jenny befriend the Sheridans, since they did her and HRH a good turn recently in a murder and scandal involving personal letters from HRH to Daisy, when she was his mistress.

At first, Charles and Kate don't want to get involved. Charles doesn't want to be at the beck-and-call of every friend of HRH and spend all his time recovering lost love letters and the like. But Kate is convinced there's more to it, and when she talks with Jenny, the bomb drops. Jenny is trying to make sure that her son, Winston, gets his start in politics; but if word got out about what the blackmailer has on the Churchills, Winston's career is at a permanent end. Because, you see, the blackmailer claims to have pictorial proof that Lord Randall Churchill was involved with the Ripper murders, 10 years before!

When Jenny shows the Sheridans the damning picture, Charles is almost positive that the photo is doctored. But he needs the negative to be sure. So Charles and Kate spring into action.

Along the way, the blackmailer is discovered murdered and Jenny is suspected in the death; she was seen coming from his rooms about the time of his murder. Despite the heavy black veils she wore, someone knew who she was and gave an anonymous tip to the police.

As the Sheridans investigate and try to recover the photo negatives, they find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of Jack the Ripper. And while the folks in the East End/Whitechapel know more than they're saying, Kate and Charles can't seem to get any solid information. Everyone is too scared.

The unraveling of this mystery seems to be a Gordian knot; the more the Sheridans uncover, the more mysteries surface. Will they have to uncover the true identity of Jack the Ripper in order to solve this mystery? Can they do so without being murdered, themselves?
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Such an interesting book! So in-depth compared to the usual froth and fluff of this series.

I knew several of the theories behind Jack the Ripper, but a lot of the information I read in this book was new to me. While the authors (yes, it's a husband and wife team being Robin Paige) don't purport to have uncovered anything new and to have taken some license with the facts, there was still a lot of information that I'd never heard or seen. And since the authors based their "facts" upon research done by several BBC researchers and revealed in 1976, the final theory, as it were, seems quite plausible. And very tragic... sad for all involved.

There's a sub-plot involving Winston Churchill and a young man who's acting as editor for Jenny Churchill's magazine. It seems the young man was in the same schools and a regiment; but something happened that neither Winston nor the young man wish to discuss. And when that's finally uncovered, we get an entire different picture of Winston Churchill than might be well-known. (Certainly not well-known to Americans.) Every hero has his flaws, and several of Winston Churchill's are on open view; however, Winston is only 24 or so in this book. It's obvious that he had a difficult time with his father - couldn't do anything to please the old man. So Winston's ambition and self-promotion are viewed in the light that he was constantly trying to prove himself, mostly to his dead father. Familiar theme!

Quite a good book - much more absorbing and fascinating than the usual in this series, although the books in the series are fun and good reads. But this book takes us to the darker, underbelly of murder, blackmail, corruption, and evil.
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