John Gaynard's Reviews > The Strange Michael Folmer Affair

The Strange Michael Folmer Affair by John Rigbey
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Apr 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read in March, 2012


The Strange Michael Folmer Affair opens in 2003 in the sordid back streets and poor pubs around London's infamous King's Cross railway station, and with the murder of a prostitute who was down on her luck even before she met the man who would kill her. Her body is found in the same street as Jack the Ripper’s first murder victim back in 1888. The autopsy shows that the woman was murdered and defiled in a way nearly identical to the way the Ripper treated his first victim. The killing of this prostitute is followed by a mocking letter to the London police force. Eight fingerprints are found on the letter and they all correspond to the prints of a man who had been hanged in 1958, for committing at least one copycat Jack the Ripper slaying, and possibly more.

After a second grisly murder, which takes place on the same day of the calendar year as the original Jack the Ripper’s second crime, the team of detectives under Detective Chief Inspector Michael Gregory finds itself faced with a race against time. They know that the new Ripper will kill on the same days as the man he is copying, and leave the bodies in the same London streets, but in spite of the way they manage to lock down London on the dates in question they can’t stop the 2003 Ripper from dropping the bodies wherever he wishes. While investigating three threads to the dilemma--the original Ripper murders, the alias and previous form of the man who killed between the end of WWII and his execution in 1958, and the murders that are happening nearly in front of their eye--they have to deal with a rumor-mongering press that could stymie the investigation. Two of their biggest challenges are to overcome their own skepticism about repeat crimes and the foolproofness of scientific evidence.

The author of The Strange Michael Folmer Affair is John Rigbey, a retired London CID officer. This novel was first published in 2008. The area around King’s Cross and Saint Pancras railway stations has now been redeveloped and bears no resemblance to what it was in 2003, but as soon as I began to read Rigbey’s book I found the sights and smells of King’s Cross as I first saw the broken-down area in the 1970s. Rigbey does the same job of description for London in 1888, where the pubs, the drunken prostitutes, the destitute working men and their cheap lodging houses nearly jump out of the pages at you.

Some of Rigbey’s descriptions of London in the late 19th century reminded me of Patrick Suskind’s rendering of medieval Paris in his 1985 novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, where you are torn between how well the odors of poverty in the City are described and your own revulsion at what is being described. The plotting of the novel is never less than sure-footed and the storytelling is powerful. Rigbey’s experience as a London policeman is evident throughout, both in his description of the policemen and women caught up in the investigation, while trying to exercise a modicum of control over their own lives, and his sympathy for the hapless people who are both the victims and perpetrators of crime. There were still a few typos in the Kindle version I read, but don’t let them put you off this masterful novel.
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message 1: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein What a strange story. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I added it to my list.


John Gaynard Lew, I agree that it's quite a strange story. All the way through the novel I wondered how Rigbey was going to manage the different threads and bring them all to a finale, but he managed to do it!


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