Gary's Reviews > The Atlanta Ripper: The Unsolved Case of the Gate City's Most Infamous Murders

The Atlanta Ripper by Jeffery Wells
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's review
Apr 18, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: kindle, reference
Recommended for: history buffs, Atlantans
Read from April 14 to 18, 2012 , read count: 1

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so this is an exception to my usual reading habits. While doing some research on the history of Atlanta, Georgia, I happened across a mention of the Atlanta Ripper. I had never heard of such a thing. I could find very little about it online except for a mention of a book by a local history professor. Intrigued and curious, I looked up the book on Amazon and discovered it had a Kindle edition.

The frustrating thing about the entire story is that so little information has survived. Because it was an African-American killer whose victims were young African American women in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Atlanta, it was not taken very seriously until the number of killings were in two digits. Wells manages to bring it all together in one seamless narrative that lays out the full history of the killings, as well as events leading up to them. It astounded me that some of the victims were never identified, at least by the journalists of the time. Wells lays it all out with names, dates and locations of the killings, and the men accused, tried, and either convicted or acquitted of the crimes.

I definitely have a better image of what Atlanta might have been like in those days. In the wake of the race riots of 1906, tensions were still high, but the city did eventually come together to try to bring this man--or these men--to justice. And that is the crux of the issue: Who was the Atlanta Ripper? Was he one man or many?

Although there is no definite conclusion--because there was never a conclusion to the case, itself--Wells presents a compelling case for the non-existence of a single "Atlanta Ripper." That most of the murders were committed by opportunistic copycats.

Think about it. The whole city was in an uproar (eventually). The modus operandi was well known: he bashed his victim in the head, slit her throat, and sometimes took personal effects from her body. Knowing this, if you had murderous intent toward a young lady for some transgression, real or imagined, what better way to divert attention from yourself as the prime suspect and shift police attention to the unknown Ripper than to rid yourself of her in a way consistent with other known victims of the Atlanta Ripper?

I had already drawn this conclusion by the time Wells presented it, so he definitely laid out all the clues properly so his readers could follow along.

I found it a quick, informative read, and I definitely recommend it to those for whom the rich history of Atlanta is a compelling draw.
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