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 4, 2007

    full of assumptions

    i read the book, i read it again and still find it very unconvincing. she might have described the cases well, (and they do not differ from the other books i have read on the same subject) but the book never failed to impress upon me that it was more from the author's opinons/suppositions/conclusions than what the evidence really states and there really isn't much evidence to begin with. Sickert died and there are no traces of his DNA even from the supposed licked stamp. All 'evidence' presented in this book are all so far-fetched. As if collecting bits and pieces of clothing to sew a quilt. This is the first book I have read written by this author and to be honest I find it hard to pick up, even try to read sample chapters of other books she has written. True she may have spent lots of time and money in writing the book but does that make all conclusions she has drawn correct?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    I agree with most posters on here. Patricia Cornwell is certainl

    I agree with most posters on here. Patricia Cornwell is certainly not the expert on the subject matter and takes a lot liberties in drawing conclusions. If Walter Sickert was still a living man, I would probably find it more offensive than I do. Mostly it was a book I enjoyed reading as a fiction story. I had a limited background in my knowledge of Jack the Ripper and while I would not now say I know the facts any better the outline of the story is more complete.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Lots of research - Hard to read

    I feel like I'm reading a rough draft. The story jumps around and is hard to follow.

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  • Posted June 30, 2011

    Clumsy writing that would have benefited from a strong editor

    I purchased this based on a friend's recommendation and out of interest in reading Cornwell's work. Portrait of a Killer starts off strong, but quickly falls apart. The author frequently jumps ahead years when discussing a specific murder, abruptly changes theme and focus (sometimes within the same paragraph), and the book is loaded with continuity errors. Cornwell unfairly scorns 19th century forensic technique, which at the time was in its infancy. Her writing on this is just plain clumsy; she stumbles over herself or veers toward the cliche or maudlin when she tries to put herself in someone else's shoes, whether a victim or Sickert/The Ripper himself. A good editor would have worked with Cornwell to create a stronger, more coherent narrative. My guess is that this was Cornwell's pet/vanity project and her editor and publisher rushed it in order to get her onto a more lucrative project afterward. This is a shame, as there was potentially a very strong book in here. I believe Cornwell is passionate about her subject, but lazy about her writing. A big disappointment.

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  • Posted February 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Confusing Statement of the Facts; Stick with Fiction

    Respected crime writer Patricia Cornwell's examination of the Jack the Ripper case starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. In the first chapter, she introduces her suspect, one Walter Sickert, and proceeds to present evidence in the following chapters. However, she does so with increasing inconsistency and clumsiness. In early chapters, she deftly shows her audience the characteristics of Jack the Ripper and how Sickert fits the picture. However, in later chapters, she loses her focus and tends to spurt random facts about the case, the time period, the scientific investigative processes that were and/or could have been used to solve the case, and the major players in the Ripper drama, all without much coherent order. In one chapter, she opens with a possible timeline for the murder of one victim, moves onto the killer's word usage in his letters, to postmarks on those letters, to DNA found on not just the killer's letters, but those belonging to many people related to the case, back to postmarks, to the use of Cornish poetry, and finally back to DNA. There is little to no transition or connection between each "section" of this chapter and the overall effect is total confusion. I do not completely blame Cornwell for this; a stronger editor would have helped quite a bit.

    Additionally, this book is not for the neophyte Ripperologist; Cornwell references many people, places and facts that those in the know are familiar with, but newbies won't recognize, again which might cause confusion. A word to the wise: read up on the facts of the case first.

    But Cornwell's depictions of the victims' last hours are intriguing and deliciously creepy - true testament to her skill as a writer, perhaps just not a writer of scientific fact.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2005

    Sorry - Case Not Closed

    Cornwell's book, in addition to being disorganized and meandering in its narrative, is sadly unconvincing. I wonder if her evidence would stand up in a courtroom? She is so convinced Walter Sickert being the Ripper that she ignores evidence that he was not and includes dubious 'evidence' that he was. That Sickert 'could have been' in London when the Ripper's second victim was killed because there is no evidence he was somewhere else is circumstantial at best and bad logic at worst: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The Sickert 'could have been' the Ripper does not make him so. If one wants to close the case, one needs to offer a lot more evidence than 'he could have been.' The Ripper mystery will most likely never be solved because concrete evidence is missing or destroyed, leaving only supposition and circumstance, which makes Cornwall's book a fun, but flawed, academic exercise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2004

    Not very convincing...

    This really did not convince me. She tries to draw conclusions that do not make sense, like with the DNA samples. She proves that Sickert licked this-then that Jack the Ripper licked that, but never draws the two together. It is obvious that Walter Sickert is a emotionally disturbed man, but to leap from that to the notorious Jack the Ripper? A interesting read if you have read another book on the topic first. If not, then stick to something more concrete, then read this. I think I still need to read 'A Complete History of Jack the Ripper' first. Nice try, but explore more evidence and consider other perpertrators first, in my opinion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2004

    Pretty Thin

    Makes me want to read a real book on the subject. This is my first book I've read on Jack The Ripper and I wished I had read one that let me decide. The case is far from closed and her arguments would never stand in a court of law today or back then.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2003

    Stick to fiction Patricia

    Basically the author does a mitochondrial DNA match between one of the hundreds of Ripper letters sent to the police and a painter Walter Sickert. Circumstantial evidence like being in London, speculating he had a sexual dysfunction, and the author's interpretation of his paintings lead her to conclude she's solved the case. Did Sickert write a letter pretending to be Jack the Ripper like so many others? The author provides decent evidence for this and that's really all she proves. Interesting read but bascially proves nothing at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2003

    Missing Chapter

    Several reviewers have commented on the book's abrupt ending - a summarizing of her case and then maybe 'why I could be wrong' would have made for a more satisfying conclusion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Wait for the Paperback . . . or the Garage Sale!

    I love the history and detail presented by Ms. Cornwell, however, (and not having read any other books by her), I felt the overall text was non-linear, disjointed, and at times hard to follow. The feeling/appearance while reading was of a person, probably a student, who made random notes on several scraps of paper and then 'pasted' them into a book. Things expected: additional details/evidence of murders after the 'Ripper' killings, in support of her hypothesis; evidence earlier in the text supporting or refuting other extant theories (had to read nearly 50% of the book before she refuted popular/historical beliefs); more concise organization.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2002

    A disappointment (history lesson included).

    I realize that this IS non-fiction rather than fiction. However, that does not mean truth is more interesting than fiction - to use a cliche. I love the Scarpetta books. Read every one. Sadly, The Ripper book falls short of my expectations (and it sounds like I'm not the only one). At first, the reader may seemed intrigued by the history that comes with reading this book. Perhaps they may become even more interested. However, at some point it becomes annoying. As a reader, I sensed that Cornwell was trying to take up space - as if she were writing an essay to a professor who stipulated it had to be so many words. I'm also in agreement with other readers regarding lack of substance. Many times I would find myself turning to the pictures or sources to find an illustration that would prove her point/statement. Sadly, few were found. This has taken me far longer to read than her previous books, and that is by choice. She made a valiant effort on this endeavor, but tremendous effort doesn't always make for good reading material.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2003

    Not quite case closed

    Patricia Cornwell, while usually an excellent writer, makes it very hard to completely get through this book due to her absolutely arrogant attitude that she is the only person in history to identify Jack the Ripper. However, the problem with her claim is, she presents only flimsy evidence at best, inclusive of "DNA" evidence found on only a few of the entire correspondences kept in the Ripper files - of which we must take her word that it was found; her own opinions (she frequently asserts that something is true, while backing it up with statements beginning like "To my knowledge" or "It was not apparent to me") and thereby proffering these statements as fact. But no hard facts or significant evidence is given to substantiate her claims. Only her opinions and some coincidences and circumstances. An interesting read, but by no means the "final authority". Unfortunately, no one, not even Patricial Cornwell, has enough from the evidence left to unequivocally prove who Jack the Ripper was. I looked forward to this book tremendously, but was sorely disappointed with the outcome. Sorry, Patricia, but I didn't buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2002

    OK , but disappointed

    I had high expectations but was disappointed. I felt that Cornwell could've presented the evidence in a more compelling fashion. It had such potential but failed to keep me entertained.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    FACT OR FICTION ?

    As a work of fiction this book has its moments, however, in any other context it is mainly a theory based largely on supposition based upon much circumstantial evidence. Rather than "Case Closed' I would say it should read "By a Headcase."

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    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted May 1, 2011

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    Posted July 11, 2010

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2009

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