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What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper
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What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  842 ratings  ·  158 reviews
An invalid for most her life, Alice James is quite used to people underestimating her. And she generally doesn't mind. But this time she is not about to let things alone. Yes, her brother Henry may be a famous author, and her other brother William a rising star in the new field of psychology. But when they all find themselves quite unusually involved in the chase for a mos ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  842 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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(B+) 78% | Good
Notes: A satire of Victorian high society, it uses the Jack the Ripper murders as a backdrop for a kind of comedy of manners.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I got about 4 pages into this before I had to go look up profiles of all 3 of the James siblings on Wikipedia (William, Henry, Alice), because I realized I knew nothing about any of them. After I read the profiles, and got a little farther into the book, I started questioning why this story was written as, essentially, Real Person Fanfiction instead of an original work with fictional characters. It seemed like the circumstances and narrative were stretched to hang over the framework of the James ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
What Alice Knew fictionalizes the ultimate mystery - Who is Jack the Ripper? The end result is a whirlwind of action and intrigue that makes the familiar case new and exciting.

Author Henry James, his pioneer in the field of psychology brother William and their "professional invalid" sister Alice do their part to help hunt down the famed killer when a forward thinking official invites William to consult on the case.

While attempting to solve the mystery, each of the siblings puts for their own str
Oct 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Why I read this: I was given a chance to read this by the publisher, it sounded fascinating and the author is new to me so I wanted to give it a try.

How is the novel driven: Primarily plot/action-driven though the character development is well-done also.

My thoughts: After the read-a-thon was done, this one was next on my list and I had a whole Sunday to myself (I have been sick, the kids were still at their grandparents and the hubby out of the house again), so I sat down to enjoy this novel. An
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic book! I haven't had a book snatch my attention and hold it like this for a long time. I started reading What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen last night. I snuggled down in bed with plenty of pillows and prepared to read just until I got sleepy. The next thing I knew it was 12:30 am. Not counting sleeping and chore-time, I read it straight through at a most amazing clip The historical details are right on target, the chara ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it
American philosopher William James is requested by Scotland Yard to come lend his expertise in the case of Jack the Ripper. Already in London are his brother and sister, novelist Henry James and Alice, a bedridden but intelligent woman. William has access to various pieces of information through his help in the official investigation, and each one of the James siblings has a unique perspective and expertise. Could this famed family have solved the case of Jack the Ripper?
• Mild language
• Sexual
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was pretty good, I thought. The depiction of Alice, Henry, and William James, and their relations with each other, was very well done.
Diane S ☔
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on the Jack the Ripper series using Henry James, William James and their bedridden sister Alice. Also making an appearance is Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent and Mark Twain.
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
From my book review blog, Rundpinne.

"What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen takes a look at Henry, William, and Alice James and how they each use their talents to help Scotland Yard find Jack the Ripper. While William James is the person Scotland Yard has summoned from Harvard to help assist them, it is his brother Henry James who circulates among the elite in London as well as the with the great artists of the time. Meanwhile, bedridden A
Rebecca Briley
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
I was particularly drawn to this book because of its focus on Walter Sickert as the possible/probable Jack the Ripper, since I have been convinced the two are one and the same after reading Patricia Cornwell's well-supported examination of the evidence from which she draws the same conclusion. The intrusion of a Peter Newsome seems a red herring, but perfectly acceptable in fiction of this sort, and somewhat redeeming in keeping the novel from predictability. I enjoy historical novels that are p ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Martin
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have too many books going at one time, not even counting the one I'm writing. But I finally finished WHAT ALICE KNEW: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper. It was the Henry James connection that drew me in. He had written WHAT MAISIE KNEW and I remembered it well from college. I liked his earlier works very much and ended up teaching DAISY MILLER and THE TURN OF THE SCREW and enjoying them each time.
So add to the James connection Victorian London, James' brother William and
Professor of philosophy/psychology, William James (author Henry James' brother) lives and teaches in the United States but is asked to come to London to help with the Jack the Ripper case. Henry also wants to help, as does their invalid sister, Alice, who is confined to her home.

It was ok, but anytime there was any focus that wasn't on Jack the Ripper, I got bored. The dialogue seemed very pretentious or maybe just too intellectual for me or something. I also had trouble getting past William bei
Oct 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Henry, William, and Alice are trying to catch a killer, a killer by the name of Jack the Ripper to be exact. Using their combined knowledge and skills they must pull together to come up with his identity.

This book was entertaining, one of the many great fictional interpretations of the murders. I found the characters to be quite compelling with my favorite being Henry for his wit followed by Alice for her enthusiasm. If you are a fan of Jack the Ripper stories I would recommend reading this.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
I really enjoyed this. It's set in a time and place that's interesting and it's characters are people (Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Jack the Ripper) I'm interested in.

The author weaves the story around the Jack the Ripper plot skillfully. And she intersperses little bits of wisdom.

Now if only the real murders had been this easy to catch.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Jack the Ripper...with Oscar Wilde as one of the characters! This should be fun.

Meh. It was ok.
Lydia Cox
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book on several levels. Although I seriously doubt it solved the Ripper killings, I like to read well thought out historical alternate scenarios. The characters were well defined. I especially liked the interaction between the siblings. It was very realistic. And young Archie was adorable. There were numerous famous personalities thrown in (Mark Twain, John Sargeant), and I'm not sure how accurately they were portrayed, but it was entertaining in any case, and it is fiction. At ti ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty good book - it was well-written.
P Bright
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I've enjoyed everything else I've read by this author but this was a bit of a disappointment.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a really fun and relaxing read. Now I'm interested in Henry James. And Jack the Ripper, of course.
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book especiallt the references to famous people
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A solid literary mystery featuring Henry James and several of his famous contemporaries. Almost an alternative history of the time. Not very scary or eerie, not even Jamesian, somewhat disapppintingly but a decent read, nonetheless.
Carol Hoenig
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
The following review may be also found here:

Henry James Meets Jack the Ripper--Maybe

Last night, after I finished reading Paula Marantz Cohen’s What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper, I turned on the television to see that Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” was on. The movie was at the scene where Margot Mary Wendice asked Mark Halliday if he really believed in the perfect murder. Halliday replied, “Yes, absolutely. O
Ginger K
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Ginger by: Becky
Despite both the title and the cover copy (the blurb on this site is much better), Alice is not the main character. She shares that honor equally with her two brothers, William and Henry James. What William, Alice, and Henry combined knew eventually adds up to a solution to Jack the Ripper's identity. (I don't know enough about current scholarship to know if this solution holds actual water, but it hangs together well enough for the purposes of the narrative.)

Unfortunately, there are hurdles for
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
“What Alice Knew” is a fascinating and entertaining fictionalized “what if” look at the Jack the Ripper Murders (sometimes referred to as the Whitechapel Murders) if the case had been solved by the three famous James siblings, William, Henry, and Alice.

Bringing late 19th-century London brilliantly to life – and writing in a style very similar to that found in the psychologically-attuned, detail-oriented novels of Henry James – Marantz Cohen manages to spin a page-turning mystery while presenting
Ann Sloan
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This historical mystery is a readable, enjoyable read full of period detail and insight. At times I felt like I was in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris; London was so full of famous people that every where you turned who bumped into a genius: Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent, Philip Henry Gosse, the English naturalist, George du Maurier, known for his cartoons in Punch and grandfather Dame Daphne du Maurier as well as the boys who inspired Peter Pan, Edward Burne-Jones, William Chester Minor, the ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but more for the sense of place and the interesting characters, than for the Jack the Ripper storyline.

Alice James, sister to author Henry, and psychologist William, has been an invalid most of her life, and she's content with that. She lives a peaceful reclusive life, and manages her illness accordingly.

But when her brothers become, through an odd set of circumstances, involved in the investigation in London of the Jack the Ripper murders, Alice realizes that her introspect
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting look at a Jack the Ripper theory. Lots of name dropping ;)
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was very descriptive. VERY descriptive. Yet it added a lot of ‘flavor’ and really set the setting for the book. It made picturing the scenes and settings much more clearer and it almost felt like watching a movie. I especially like the dinner scenes (particularly when Henry was hosting a party) they were very well written and it also gave you a look on how parties were handled during that particular time period in England.

The three main characters, Henry, William and Alice James were
Tiffani Erickson
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I went to see my Spanish professor (a good friend of mine) one day to check up on something and we got to talking and I saw he had this book laying on the corner of his desk. I asked him about it and he said he enjoyed it and I should read it, as I may like it. I told him it seems like a book I would read and I would try to get it back to him before I graduated. I'm nine days late on returning it to him, but am happy that I am finally done. Though I enjoyed this book, I thought it would never en ...more
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Crime, Mysteries ...: What Alice Knew - October 2013 23 79 Oct 31, 2013 07:51PM  
Historical Fiction: Theories on Jack the Ripper 6 29 Oct 13, 2012 01:40PM  
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Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English, received her BA in English and French from Yale University and her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She is the author of seven books and numerous essays on literature, film, and culture.

Her most recent academic book, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth (Oxford UP), was selected as a Choice Outstanding Book for 2003. H
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