Aoife's Reviews > The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper

The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper by Maxim Jakubowski
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Jun 14, 2012

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bookshelves: true-crime, history, vile-victorians, from-hell
Read from June 10 to 14, 2012

This book is somewhat hard to rate, as I think overall it achieved what it's supposed to do (i.e. give you an overview some of the theories on Jack the Ripper) but it could have done it a lot better.

The book is divided into three parts. The first gives you just the cold facts based on the police-records, eye-whitness accounts etc. and this is just written horribly. Main clause after main clause. It reads like it was written by a fourth-grader...however I do get used to bad writing rather quickly (is that a good or a bad thing?) and it is not too long anyway.
In that first part you also get a selection of the eywhitness-reports which seems rather random (I think for each canonical victim there is one whitness-statement) and the coroner-reports on the victims.
The largest part is the second, a collection of various essays on the identity of the Ripper and before I read this I had no idea how special Ripperologists were. It's a bit like reality shows where the contestants call each other stupid just that they call each other's theories stupid. A lot of essays don't start with the authors own theorie but by pointing out how wrong the others are. Sometimes just a general 'oh these conspiracy-theories are so stupid' and sometimes they pick on two or three authors and explain why their theories just have to be wrong.
If you ignore all that you are left with some theories that are on the spectrum somewhere between 'Yeah, these are good points' and 'What exactly is this doing in a non-fiction book?'. I kind of want to do an in-depth rant about at least half of the theories but I give you an abridged version:
One - at least aptly called 'A novelists speculation' - doesn't even get the basic facts right: not all Ripper-victims had fingers or an ear missing.
One guy seems far too busy pointing out how awesome he is, how many tv-appearances he made and how much the others suck so that there's not much space to flesh out his theory.
Another rightly points out that it's hard to find information about possible suspects that were 'everyday people' because there aren't many records about them. He then goes on to give a fascinating - totally fictional - account about his suspects mental state, how desperate he was, how madly in love, only very little of it is verified by outside-sources. This is especially stupid as there is another essay, suggesting the same suspect (Mary Kelly's boyfriend) which gives more facts and actually managed to convince me that he might be one of the likelier candidates.

I could go on and on about this. From all the essays there's only a small number that managed to convince me that this theorie might be worth looking at more cloesely. But after all, that's the point of a collection of essays. It's just that I'm now wondering if all Ripperologists are that mad and self-centered or if that was a bad selection.

The last part throws some more semi-facts at us. It contains one chapter about possible other victims and one chapter is called 'Other suspects?' which is a strange title as most of those have already been mentioned in the main-part, some in passing, some with whole essays dedicated to them.
Finaly we get a rather extensive Bibliography and Filmography of works dealing with Jack the Ripper.

Overall a good starting-point if you're interested in the Ripper but I had expected more.
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Reading Progress

06/10/2012 page 24
5.0% ""Putting 16 Riperologists in one room is about as sensible as putting Jack the Ripper in a brothel""
06/11/2012 page 120
23.0% "Thank God the dreadfully written first part is over...now for some better written Essays on Jacks identity almost without any logical reasoning."
06/11/2012 page 177
35.0% "Dear ITV: Whitechapel is a very unrealistic show. Buchan is far too sane to be a Ripperologist.

Also: So far the theory that made most sense of all was the one where the author claimed 'Well there's a Nathan Kaminsky here and a David Cohen there but the names are so similar, they could easily be the same person.'"
06/12/2012 page 354
69.0% "Some essays are actually quite interesting...some have something of a car-crash, you simply can't look away..."

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