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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  33,791 ratings  ·  1,545 reviews
Now updated with new material that brings the killer's picture into clearer focus.

In the fall of 1888, all of London was held in the grip of unspeakable terror.  An elusive madman calling himself Jack the Ripper was brutally butchering women in the slums of London’s East End.  Police seemed powerless to stop the killer, who delighted in taunting them and whose crimes were
Mass Market Paperback, 383 pages
Published November 2003 by Berkley (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  33,791 ratings  ·  1,545 reviews

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Mar 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
For weeks, I attempted to finish Patricia Cornwell's "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed" I haven't written a real book review, (or even been inclined to write one,) since High School English Lit., but this book frustrated me enough to write one.

I've heard from many people what a wonderful piece of forensic investigation it is, how interesting, and that it seems the most plausible answer to the question of "whodunit."

It must be confessed, that though I ordinarily like Patricia Co
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: recent
Let me first say, I hate when an author prints his or her own name larger than the title on a book cover. That was not the worst thing about this book.

I found “Portrait of a Killer” because it rates highly among other true-crime books and I thought I was learning about actual events, until I was about a quarter of the way through and did some research of my own. At that time I realized the only value of this book is a description of the life and times of a successful British artist who should p
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I decided to read Patricia Cornwell's book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed because I have an interest in Walter Sickert. I continued to read the book, despite the fact that it was by far the most absurd book I've ever read, because I assumed at the turn of every page that it couldn't get any sillier. At some point, I thought, Cornwell would have to present solid evidence that connected Walter Sickert to the Ripper murders. After all, you can't go around accusing people of mur
Aug 25, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2007, audiobooks
This was not what I expected. I thought it would be a sort of historical re-cap of the Jack the Ripper killings with Cornwell revealing the person that she thought to be the killer, with evidence to substantiate her opinion. I did not expect to be lectured over and over and beaten over the head with her opinion on the identity of the killer.

From what I've read, Cornwell went a little bonky in the head with trying to prove that her guy was the one, spending millions of dollars to acquire paintin
Sezín Koehler
What a phenomenal and utterly disturbing book. I learned:

1) The identity of Jack The Ripper, with 98% certainty, is the British artist Walter Sickert, proven by intense forensic analysis.

2) He not only killed the prostitutes for which he is best known, but possibly 40+ others, including children, men and non-prostitute women, some of whom he hacked to pieces and possibly ate.

3) 1888 London was an absolute shithole and why anyone would have wanted to live in those conditions is beyond me.

4) Scotl
Rebecca Huston
I have to say, I know I am in the minority when I say that I find this argument for artist Walter Sickert to be the Ripper rather convincing. Not everyone is going to agree, and that's ok -- I feel that the truth behind the Ripper killings in 1888 London will remain a mystery for all time. There just isn't enough data out there on the killings to point the finger at one particular person.

All that said, what makes this book so interesting is how Cornwell draws out the pathology of a sociopath. W
Jan 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: true-crime

I started reading Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed while I was down in Florida, and finally finished it the day before yesterday. I remember reading reviews of the book when it first came out a few years ago, and never picking the book up. I found it by chance in the stacks at my godmother's house, and decided to give it a try.

It's not that I'm not interested in Jack the Ripper. When I was in high school, I could be counted on to track down just about any bo
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Cornwall’s foray into her version of non-fiction is an entertaining read, but objective investigation it is not. Even in recounting the, largely undisputed, facts of the canonical five murders, the author commits the cardinal sin of ignoring evidence that doesn’t support her theory, while manipulating and over-emphasising scraps of information or conjecture that do. She also crosses the line into personal judgment, going so far as to describe one hapless victim as “belong[ing] in a dustbin”! Whe ...more
Tiffany PSquared
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this during a time in my life when I wanted all mysteries solved! Unfortunately, my needs weren't fulfilled with this book. In fact, I think I had more questions afterward than I did when I started.
Am I satisfied that she may have, in fact, closed the case and the mystery of Jack the Ripper's elusive identity has finally been solved? Sorry, no. And I think that this is one mystery that I am content to leave just that.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
Patricia Cornwell has more money than sense. I can't believe that she spent a million dollars of her own money to research the true identity of Jack the Ripper.....and, despite the title, she has come away with little to no proof - she relies a great deal on mitochondrial DNA evidence that she admits is inconclusive, and paintings done by Sickert years after the fact. Sickert seems to have been an ass, and perhaps he was the Ripper, but Cornwall has done nothing in this book that would allow her ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Possibly the most horribly "researched" book I've ever read. Case closed, my ass.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one
(copied from my amazon review)
If a prosecutor went to court and presented a case against Walter Sickert with the evidence the author gives us in this book, the judge would laugh hysterically and require of the prosecutor to chose another profession.

So let's see what are some of the evidence that would make Sickert the killer. He knew a guy who was american and laughed with a "ha ha". In the ripper letters, the ripper writes "ha ha", so he's gotta be Sickert! Or because Sickert occasionally wrot
Jun 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot claim to be a Ripperologist, but I have read a fair number of books about the Ripper murders and none so arrogant and uninformative as this. Before I say any more, let me just say that I enjoy Patricia Cornwell's novels, she's a good writer, so I am simply unable to decide what on earth made her write this. In the beginning of this book, the author states that she became interested in the Ripper murders on a visit to London and was soon convinced that the artist Walter Sickert was respo ...more
Hey lady! Don't write a book saying you solved a case when the best you can do every other line is something "probably" or "may certainly" have happened.
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
I liked this book because Patricia Cornwall presented quite a stirring case for her argument that the killer was a rather famous artist named Walter Sickert. She compared pictures painted by the artist with photos from the crime scene and of the victims, postmortem, and the similarities gave me shivers! She created this protrait of Sickert with such passion, convinced she really has solved this case, that I couldn't help but get excited, too. It didn't hurt that I read it the week leading up to ...more
Mar 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
After months, I finally buckled and put this one down... I should have taken it into the yard and shot it... It literally was that bad...
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
first of all, this is the most ambitious book title I've ever experienced.

second of all, I cannot believe what a huge percentage of this is spent talking about Walter Sickert's (allegedly) deformed penis!!!!!!!!!! so much!!!!!!!!

finally, I simply do not care who was Jack the Ripper, not even if he had a normal penis
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History and true crime fans
It's interesting to observe how "common knowledge" sometimes lags behind real knowledge. Just the other day, I heard someone on television say what I've heard all my life: that the true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been discovered.

Not true. Patricia Cornwell figured out who he was, made her case compellingly, and closed the file in 2002. The only mystery left in my mind is how some people can read the book and not be convinced. It should not be surprising that the murderer turned out t
May 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I'm one of those folks who is forever entranced by the Jack the Ripper saga. Victorian crime in the grimy, fogbound, poverty-ridden streets of London. I've even done the walking tour. So, I picked up this volume with high anticipation.


Prior to this, I had never read a Patricia Cornwell book, so I was not a follower of her mystery books. Safe to say, after making it through this "expose" of the Ripper, I won't be reading any other Cornwell books. She could have made her case fairly quickly
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
so, patricia cornwell has solved the ripper case. she's convinced she has; and she doesn't tire to try to convince you, too. which makes portrait of a killer an extremely annoying read. you'll be forced to wade through plenty of the brackwater of standard bourgeois reaction to anything and anybody involved with prostitution (hey compassion - hey contempt!), the standard true-crime-solved insight about the psychological mechanism (yes, singular: one mechanism, and one mechanism only) that produc ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Buddy read with the awesome Sarah! We read different publications of the same book, which I initially thought was a completely different book.

Disclaimer: I recently had a med adjustment, so I've been really drowsy until my body adjusts (usually about 2 weeks), so I'm not sure how much this is me vs the book. I need to re-read this one eventually. I also skimmed starting 50% in. If it wasn't for the buddy read, I would have put this one on hiatus until I was in a better head space.

-She reall
Jun 24, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: truecrime
I admit to having a great interest in the Jack the Ripper case and have for many years. I was interested to see what Cornwell could come up with as to who could have done the killing. I was thoroughly disappointed with this book. It was basically filled with Cornwell's guesses that she put out as facts. What really set me off was that part of the book where she was walking down the street with her editor (I think) and says, "I know who did it." From then on, I had a feeling I wasn't going to enj ...more
James Glass
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Patricia Cornwell delves into the Jack the Ripper case. There's probably not many adults in this world who don't know the name of the serial killer who murdered women in the White Chapel District in London.
She claims to have identified who The Ripper was. I believe her insight and knowledge of the murders, papers, and other evidence during the killings is very well portrayed in her book. I'm not entirely convinced the true killer is identified, but of all the evidence and other books I've read
The day of Christine’s funeral was blustery and cold, and the procession was late. Sickert didn’t pour her ashes into her grave. He dug his hands inside the urn and flung them into the wind, which blew them onto the coats and into the face of his friends.

Who was Christine? Sickert’s third wife… and who was Sickert??? The world famous artist… and a psychopathic serial killer calling himself, “Jack The Ripper”… who killed the innocent in many ways. Most of the victims were children and women. Afte
Carol Littlejohn
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't read Patricia Cornwell's books because I'm not a fan of murder fiction. I prefer nonfiction to fiction. However, this book is a nonfiction book about Jack the Ripper, a serial killer in Victorian London during the 1880's. Cornwell believes the killer is painter/actor Walter Richard Sickert. She gives enough evidence to convince the reader, including DNA evidence. As an aside: I read this book many years ago (and have just reread it), and I remember coming across Sickert's name in another ...more
Aug 01, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Man, I had this whole summer of reading books I thought I'd love but didn't (Da Vinci Code, Under the Banner of Heaven, and this). So I wasn't quite as disappointed with this one as the other two, but it's not good. I love Patricia Cornwell's mysteries (although they're definitely guilty pleasures), and I love stories about Jack the Ripper (or really anything that takes place in London). But geez, you can't name a book "Case Closed" and then present such a shoddy case. I really hope PC sticks wi ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Finally I found out who Jack the Ripper was! For the longest time I thought if I ever wanted to know the true identity of Jack the Ripper I would have to go under cover as a man and join the Freemasons to learn all their secrets, since I heard on the Jack the Ripper tour I went on in like 1999 that the only people who really know who Jack the Ripper was are the Freemasons. Needless to say, reading this book has proved a lot easier than my previous plan. Thanks Patricia Cornwell!
Corban Ford
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm torn with this one. I enjoyed the book, I did. Patricia Cornwell is one of my favorite crime writers and the creator of such characters as Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Win Garano, and Andy Brazil. Her books have won many awards and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading her I implore you to do so. In 1999 however, Cornwell decided to step away from the fiction genre and investigate some true crime, one of the biggest and unsolved crimes to date in fact.

In the fall of 1888, all of London was held
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: electronic
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Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, in 1990 while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Postmortem, was the first bona fide forensic thriller. It paved the way for an explosion of entertainment featuring in all things forensic across film, television and literature.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony,

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