Jack the Ripper, the very name brings an image of the most horrific serial killer that ever existed. Jack not only murdered but dissected his victims. He killed 5 prostitutes in the Whitechapel section of London in the year 1888 and then disappeared from view. Never caught, his crimes terrorized London and took a place in history from that year to today. Conjecture about who, or what he (or possibly she) is still rampant even now.
Stephen Hunter has written many successful novels involving guns and snipers. His knowledge of ballistics is encyclopedic. The present novel deviates from guns to the knife used by the Ripper and shows the same research that his other books embody. His descriptions of London of 1888, and the territory inhabited by Jack bring up a picture of another time and place. The misery of the poor living in the Whitechapel section is captured and made into the background of the action for the reader.
The book provides the facts, the conditions and the horror of the murders. Hunter names the women killed and provides as much as possible about them at this point in time. His descriptions of each murder are lurid, probably taken from actual newspaper accounts. The narrative uses a young Irish Journalist who follows the Ripper’s path in order to make a name for himself. He brings out facts that lead to a possible solution to who the murderer is and with literary license provides an ending to Jack’s career.
Hunter uses supposed diaries written by the journalist, and Jack himself to tell the story. He notes suspicions of the era bringing up theories prevalent and popular during the period of the Ripper’s career. There are tie-ins with the methods used by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to solve cases via astute observation and logic, as well as reference to the novel “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw.
The descriptions of the murders will be upsetting but are key to postulating the Ripper’s possible motivation in carrying out the crimes. Another fascinating book by Stephen Hunter.
5/15 Paul Lane
I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. Simon & Schuster (May 19, 2015). ISBN: 978-1476764856. 320p.