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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed / Edition 1

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed / Edition 1

3.2 162
by Patricia Cornwell

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ISBN-10: 0399149325

ISBN-13: 2900399149329

Pub. Date: 11/11/2002

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

The number-one New York Times-bestselling novelist Patricia Cornwell is known the world over for her brilliant storytelling, the courage of her characters, and the state-of-the-art forensic methods they employ.

In this headline-making new work of nonfiction, Cornwell turns her trademark skills for meticulous research and scientific expertise on one of


The number-one New York Times-bestselling novelist Patricia Cornwell is known the world over for her brilliant storytelling, the courage of her characters, and the state-of-the-art forensic methods they employ.

In this headline-making new work of nonfiction, Cornwell turns her trademark skills for meticulous research and scientific expertise on one of the most chilling cases of serial murder in the history of crime-the slayings of Jack the Ripper that terrorized 1880s London. With the masterful intuition into the criminal mind that has informed her novels, Cornwell digs deeper into the case than any detective before her-and reveals the true identity of this elusive madman.

Enlisting the help of forensic experts, Cornwell examines all the physical evidence available: thousands of documents and reports, fingerprints, crime-scene photographs, original etchings and paintings, items of clothing, artists' paraphernalia, and traces of DNA. Her unavoidable conclusion: Jack the Ripper was none other than a respected painter of his day, an artist now collected by some of the world's finest museums.

Author Biography: Patricia Cornwell's most recent number-one bestsellers include The Last Precinct and Isle of Dogs. Her earlier work includes Postmortem-the only novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards and the French Prix du Roman d'Aventure in a single year-and Cruel and Unusual, which won Britain's prestigious Gold Dagger Award for the year's best crime novel of 1993. Her fictional chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, won the 1999 Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author. Cornwell helped establish the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, the first forensic training facility of its kind in the nation, and serves as the Institute's Chairman of the Board.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Mr. Nobody1
Chapter 2The Tour8
Chapter 3The Unfortunates16
Chapter 4By Some Person Unknown31
Chapter 5A Glorious Boy41
Chapter 6Walter and the Boys59
Chapter 7The Gentleman Slummer74
Chapter 8A Bit of Broken Looking Glass86
Chapter 9The Dark Lantern98
Chapter 10Medicine of the Courts107
Chapter 11Summer Night120
Chapter 12The Young and Beautiful130
Chapter 13Hue and Cry141
Chapter 14Crochet Work and Flowers154
Chapter 15A Painted Letter175
Chapter 16Stygian Blackness193
Chapter 17The Streets Until Dawn205
Chapter 18A Shiny Black Bag219
Chapter 19These Characters About229
Chapter 20Beyond Identity241
Chapter 21A Great Joke253
Chapter 22Barren Fields and Slag-Heaps262
Chapter 23The Guest Book277
Chapter 24In a Horse-Bin289
Chapter 25Three Keys300
Chapter 26The Daughters of Cobden316
Chapter 27The Darkest Night in the Day331
Chapter 28Further from the Grave352

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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 162 reviews.
BitterCynic More than 1 year ago
I'm not as deeply immersed in "Ripperology" as many are, but I have a pretty extensive library on the subject, and knowledge about the evidence for and against just about every suspect. While Ms. Cornwell is not the first to propose Walter Sickert, she makes a chillingly convincing case. Her application of 21st century forensic methods, particularly profiling concepts, provides a new perspective on an intensely explored subject.
Jordan-Vasquez More than 1 year ago
Jack the Ripper is a classic crime story of a man who terrorized females on the streets of London. In this book the author, Patricia Cornwell, unravels the mystery of Jack the Ripper to be Walter Sickert an artist from the 1800s. This book is filled with thrill and excitement that keeps the reader at the edge of his seat and thats what makes it awsome. I like the feeling of exitement in a book with a great message. I think that the message of this book is to keep your gaurd up because you never know who's out there in the shadow of the night. I don't recommend this book to younger people due to its explicit sexual content which is probably the worst part about this book, but overall this book would be a great subject of descussion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was very compelling but cornwell did a horrible job of organizing the book. i thought that she made a good case against sickert but i think that she should have lined up all of the evidence agains sickert and other ripper suspects to let us decide who the killer was instead of focusing only on sickert. while the book made him sound like the killer, it was too confusing and winding. she often went on tangents about the minds of seriel killers or subjects related to the killings but not to the mystery of who is jack the ripper. she spend way way too much time on different subjects. i didn't even finish the book because she layed out her case and then tried to prove it within a few chapters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
D_MacGowan More than 1 year ago
Cornwall can definitely write well, but her conclusion is just plain wrong.
MonicaFMF More than 1 year ago
Patricia Cornwell lists and explains the evidence available to her and explain who she thinks is Jack the Ripper. A factual and crisp narrative outline the author's hypothesized conclusion. While readers may or may not agree, it is still interesting to see one possibility. Overall, an interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining book. I'd be willing to bet that most of these "reviews" are from the same author. He or she may even be the author of one of the many tomes on this case. Perhaps even....Philip Sugden? Phil....are you posting here? Until the Ripper case is solved beyond all doubt, all books on the subject are just speculation. I realize that many juvenile Ripper "fanboys" have their ideas as to his identity, but the case is still unsolved. I have yet to be convinced by any book on the subject, but they all present some interesting theories. The speculation continues...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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...
Forensicbronxnurse More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down, loved evey bit of it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
druidgirl More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cornwell's fingering of Walter Sickert as Jack the Ripper is detailed and damning. It won't convince Ripper hobbyists, but one wonders if knowing the answer wouldn't spoil their fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
shellybeth21 More than 1 year ago
This book absolutley blew my mind! How Cornwell was able to connect meaning between Sickert's "blatant" tellings from what he wore to historical meanings (ie: red scarf) is amazing. Notwithstanding his already troubling art and disciperings therein. I loved this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sections in the book that give great dialogue and depth about the murdering of the Unfortunates are quite interesting... But then Cornwell wanders off into nonsense. Although the book is convincing, it could be at tops 200 pages and still plant the idea that Sickert was the Ripper.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago