Customer Reviews for

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

This was a book I enjoyed immensely, I enjoyed reading the facts

This was a book I enjoyed immensely, I enjoyed reading the facts and the author's idea of what happened. I have enjoyed reading many of Ms. Cornwell,s books including this one, but I am still not convinced that Walter Sickert was the Ripper. He may have murdered women a...
This was a book I enjoyed immensely, I enjoyed reading the facts and the author's idea of what happened. I have enjoyed reading many of Ms. Cornwell,s books including this one, but I am still not convinced that Walter Sickert was the Ripper. He may have murdered women and children, but does that mean he was the Ripper, I don't think so.He may be crazy and strange but a serial killer then why was he not included in any other book I have read?

But that being said Ms.Cornwell has turned out another great storyline and wonderful characters.

posted by druidgirl on September 17, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Jack the Ripper: case still not solved

Although Patricia Cornwall did her homework and spent a lot of money and time into this investigation, I was not convinced that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. I think the evidence is there to support this claim, but the book is poorly organized and confusing. She j...
Although Patricia Cornwall did her homework and spent a lot of money and time into this investigation, I was not convinced that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. I think the evidence is there to support this claim, but the book is poorly organized and confusing. She jumped from topic to topic, went from one year to 20 years in the future and didn't adequately explain how Sickert could be Jack. I read this with great interest, but was annoyed by the lack of organization and the authorial intrusion. She should have just presented the facts and let the readers come to their own conclusions. I think she wanted Sickert to be the killer so strongly that she set about to prove that, not to find the truth. Cornwall repeatedly discusses what would have been done had the murders been committed in the present day. This commentary is not necessary. It is apparent that Jack would have been caught had the police of the 1880s had today's technology at their disposal. Chapter two, in which Cornwall despairs of writing this book, strikes me as very inappropriate and very false. If she did have these feelings, she should have put them into an author's note, not recreated a corny-sounding conversation with her agent. I also had a problem seeing the mysterious images in the Ennui painting. I found a large-sized copy of the painting and still didn't see the mysterious lurking man. The abrupt ending to the book took me by surprise. It as if she decided that was it, she wasn't writing it anymore. All in all, it is an unfocused and poorly organized book. It doesn't prove anything.

posted by Anonymous on June 3, 2004

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2004

    Jack the Ripper: case still not solved

    Although Patricia Cornwall did her homework and spent a lot of money and time into this investigation, I was not convinced that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. I think the evidence is there to support this claim, but the book is poorly organized and confusing. She jumped from topic to topic, went from one year to 20 years in the future and didn't adequately explain how Sickert could be Jack. I read this with great interest, but was annoyed by the lack of organization and the authorial intrusion. She should have just presented the facts and let the readers come to their own conclusions. I think she wanted Sickert to be the killer so strongly that she set about to prove that, not to find the truth. Cornwall repeatedly discusses what would have been done had the murders been committed in the present day. This commentary is not necessary. It is apparent that Jack would have been caught had the police of the 1880s had today's technology at their disposal. Chapter two, in which Cornwall despairs of writing this book, strikes me as very inappropriate and very false. If she did have these feelings, she should have put them into an author's note, not recreated a corny-sounding conversation with her agent. I also had a problem seeing the mysterious images in the Ennui painting. I found a large-sized copy of the painting and still didn't see the mysterious lurking man. The abrupt ending to the book took me by surprise. It as if she decided that was it, she wasn't writing it anymore. All in all, it is an unfocused and poorly organized book. It doesn't prove anything.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    Awful

    This book is a waste of money, written by an amateur. Why someone who writes mediocre crime novels thinks she can solve a 123 year old case with a flimsy theory that Ripper scholars have debunked is absurd. This book should be sold as fiction.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What a laugh

    Pity it didn't come with a satisfaction/money back guarantee. The most tenuous connection I have ever read and an absolute embarrassment for an author that prides herself on her professional credentials in the field.
    The pictures were pretty.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2005

    Full of Baloney

    If I could give this a black hole instead of one star, I would.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    Very Bad Non-Fiction, OK as Fiction

    I agree with the other reviews: Patricia Cornwell's implication of Walter Sickert as the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' is completely unproven in this work. Ms Cornwell really overdoes it when, in the second chapter, she relates how distressed she was during her investigation into Walter Sickert as 'Jack the Ripper'. It really shows her own oversized ego more than anything. She offers NO conclusive evidence whatsoever as to Sickerts alleged part in the Whitechapel murders. She even ignors her own evidence: In the first chapters she gives Sickerts reason for the killings as his being sexually mutilated; first by conjenital defect, then later by three surguries allegedly to correct said defect. Then in later chapters she reveals that Sickert's first wife divorced him for 'adultry.' I do know that Sickert was widely believed to have fathered several illegitimate children in his life. She does however paint a pretty good picture as to the conditions of life in the East end of Victorian era London and the plight of its residents. Although methinks we can't rely on this picture inasmuch as we also can't rely on her evidence as to the identity of the worlds most notorious murderer. Patricia Cornwell should stick to the fiction that she is apparently known for and leave criminal investigation to those better suited. Don't waste good money on this book. There are far better books on this subject. If you must read it get it from the library. You might find it in the 'fiction' section!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2004

    Long-winded and circumstantial

    Coming in at about three times the length it deserves, thanks to an enormous amount of general filler information and excessively (and totally unnecessarily) gorey details on the condition of the corpses, supplemented by absolutely unfounded and wild speculation (which almost always ends with a phrase like, 'well, that's speculation on my part.'). The author bases conclusions on presumptions that have been drawn from pure speculation. The book fails to conclusively prove anything, it fails to present any substantively new evidence on the case. It does, however, prove that you can read a large number of primary sources without having any ultimate purpose and without being able to demonstrate anything worthwhile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2003

    MAJOR Disappointment...waste of money

    I have read EVER book written by Cornwell, she is my favorite author...unltil THIS. Patricia? What's the deal? I forced myself (out of respect for this author) to read more than half the book. I was SURE she would pull it together but she didn't. Appears she is going the way of other contemporary 'greats', John Grisham to name one that started out strong, ran out of steam (?) and started writing just to get published. Unfortunately, riding on her past achievements and successes. This was nothing more than re-telling the same tired old 'tales' that have been printed before in fact, she admits it. Where's the NEW evidence? Where are the 'facts' that have never been figgured out before? ...They are not there. Throughout the book, I kept looking forward to her usual brilliance but all she did was regurgitate the same old tired details again and again as if that will make them 'facts'. I really hate to see her lower herself to this level. What was it...deadline had to be met? There was nothing new that she brought to the book and again, she repeated over and again the same sensational facts about the fact the victims were prositutes, their body parts, the gross nature of their injuries, etc. It was a bore...no fact...no conclusion. Worst of all, now I hear she's going on the Princess Diana trip (Oh, puleeze! More sensationalism???)) this is one reader that won't buy into that one. This book sounded more like easvesdropping on her therapy session than reading a 'Cornwell' book. Take a vacation, Pat. Your loyal fans deserve more than this drivel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2003

    MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT

    A long time Cornwall fan I looked forward to her anaylsis of the Jack Ripper case. However I was very disappointed. The work was circuitious, confusing and illogically laid out. Unfortunately she jumped from topic to topic forcing me at times to go back and re-read a section to see if I missed anything. Her background comments on the social mores and extreme poverty were enlightening. I wish she had complied the material in a more logical manner since it was obvious she worked long and hard on the research. I would have preferred it written in the format usually followed by true crime writers like Ann Rule. A major disappointment

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2003

    Garbage!!

    This book is pure fiction. Cornwell manipulates the facts of the case to fit her misguided theory. She should be ashamed of herself for muddling history like this. For a factual and thorough examination of the case, read The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2003

    Portrait of a True Disappointment: Patricia Cornwell

    How an author can write something based strictly on circumstantial, inconclusive evidence and get it published is beyond me. Although the killer may very well have been Walter Sickert, there isn't enough evidence to hold up even in a courtroom of today's prestige. This book is based on thoery, allegation, and coincidence...little fact and too much time-consuming research by Cornwell.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2003

    I am not convinced

    I read tne book to the very end and I understood all her allegations and assumptions. I am not convinced. If her purpose was to point root out the real Jack the Ripper,the allegations presented would not get past a grand jury. I was disappointed with the ending, what happened to Walter Sickert?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013

    Sleeper

    Found this book hard to read. Tried numerous time and just could not get interested.
    I couldn't find a way to give it half star
    Sorry...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    This has to be one of the worst postulations regarding the ident

    This has to be one of the worst postulations regarding the identity of the Ripper that I've ever encountered - and I've encountered a lot. The entire book is wholely disorganized; the majority of the "documentation" on which she bases her theory is opinion and hearsay - not actual facts. There are even some statements regarding Sickert that can (and have) been completely refuted as to locations at certain times, dates, etc. It was an extremely poor attempt at becoming the detectives she obviously vicariously lives through in her fictional novels. She should stick to those and leave history to real psychologists and investigators. One of the worst and most disappointing Christmas presents I've ever received.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2003

    Worst book on the subject yet. Embarrasing to read!!

    This is a terrible abomination of a true crime book. There is no evidence against Sickert, NOTHING! Read 'the Complete Jack the Ripper' for a detailed and factual account of the case. The simple truth is that Jack the Ripper was most likely an overlooked nobody who was questiond but never seriously pursued by police. The Ripper was competent enough to elude suspicion but was a pathetic wretch of a human being. FBI profiler John Douglas was probably right on the money with his profile. Fictional garbage like this book written by Cornwell only serves to muddle the already blurry events of 1888-1891. I really can't understand how this book was even published. Cornwell should be ashamed of herself for this awful blight...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2003

    Great theatre

    The paucity of facts here isn't nearly as disturbing as the presumptions standing in their place. This is a meandering indictment against what appears to be just a voyeuristic 19th century painter. A damaged penis does not a psychopath make, and violent paintings do not always bespeak a violent man. History attests to this. But it's good theatre to witness the zeal with which this book roots out the truth, only to never substantiate it. If one didn't require hard facts to enjoy the book, one might still ask, 'Where the dickens was the editor?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2003

    Ugh. . .

    I expected more from Patricia Cornwell. Her other books are great, and I thought this one would have some plot. A plot of how she collected the evidence, a plot of how Jack the Ripper did it, anything! Instead she fills the pages with extra background info and personal opinions on subjects that aren't really important (Who cares what she thinks about coroners vs. MEs?).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2003

    Portrait of a killer, yes. Evidence? No.

    From a typically compelling author we are given this jumble of suppositions (Sickert could have been here, he might have, one could suppose) and a diluted argument for the definitive exposure of Jack the Ripper. As a revealing profile of a century-old psychopath, this book attempted to redeem itself, but the farfetched connect-the-dots-and-it's-apparent meanderings between fact and conjecture left me extremely disappointed. Even the much-vaunted "proof" was lukewarm at best: the DNA evidence was laughable, the stick figures and purported notations/drawings in a guesthouse register could literally have been made by anyone, and her touted watermark proofs would be thrown out by any first year law student. Like the Ripper case clues, this novel (for most of its ramblings are fictitious imaginings on Ms. Cornwell's part) left me cold.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2003

    WHAT A WASTE

    This was such a disappointing read. The author starts off talking about Sickert as being the Ripper and yet there is no ground laid for how she came to believe this or how she even identified him as a suspect. Her conclusions often are based on subjective reasoning and not fact. The book is full of general information with no specifics. For example, Sickert supposedly had a great friendship with Whistler which later turned sour. But I still have no idea of how that friendship was formed, what it was like, or why it ended. I expected a lot more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2002

    Please, kill me now!

    What an almost complete waste of time! I say "almost" because I try to always find something good in everything. There was some interesting research about the history of policing in England and tidbits about paper manufacturing and handwriting analysis. However, if Ms. Cornwell had chosen to write this book as historic fiction and used one of her own characters as the investigator on the case then she might have been able to create something entertaining and worthwile. She then could have taken poetic license and beefed up some of her so-called evidence. Perhaps she could have had her protagonist find evidence in Inspector Abberline's "diary" or the Ripper's scrapbook. Instead she has served up nothing but sheer speculation and far-fetched hypotheses. All of her theories hinge on so many other possibilities that the case against her suspect tumbles like a house of cards. I have read many Jack the Ripper theories and I must say that most of them, although easily disproven, have been more interesting and plausible than Cornwell's unsubstantiated accusations. She backs up none of her "facts" with anything concrete, but has the hubris to claim that she has come up with the definitive solution. I'm especially irked by comments in which she says things like, "I wouldn't dare claim that these letters were written by Sickert or even Jack the Ripper," and then in subsequent paragraphs she states, "Clearly, the Ripper had a mixture of A Pirie batches (of paper) when he wrote these November 22nd letters..." That sounds to me like she's certain that those particular letters were indeed written by the Ripper. Throughout the entire loathesome book she does things like this and I found it more and more frustrating with every page that I turned. And yet I'd kept on reading because I kept hoping that she'd actually present some facts that would knock my socks off, but it didn't happen. Stick with fiction, Pat. Your story has more holes in it than a middle-aged, alcoholic unfortunate's worn out cotton knickers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2003

    Fact or Opinion?

    Having read the "propaganda" and common knowledge available about the Jack the Ripper murders, I was looking forward to a new approach. I was however, rather disappointed with what Cornwll provided as a factual account for Sickert's guilt. There was very little reference to the multitudes of forensic sciences that were used to make the "incriminating" links between Sickert and the Ripper, especially for the amount of money and effort that was placed on these tools. This book is peppered with Patricia's personal opinion, sarcastic comments and coincidences. The information that she provides does create enough of a doubt to his innocence; however, as a research document it follows too closely to the patterns of a fiction based novel. I will be locating the biographies of Sickert that she referenced to see what the people who had known him had to say about him, unfortunately her spin on Sickert, especially for not having met the man, comes across as slanderous and libel.

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