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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed

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"Between August and November 1888, at least seven women were murdered in London's Whitechapel area. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear in the East End for months, and gave rise to the sobriquet that was to become shorthand for a serial killer - Jack the Ripper." "For over a hundred years the murders have remained among the world's greatest unsolved crimes, and a wealth of theories have been posited which have pointed the finger at royalty, a barber, a doctor, a woman and an artist. Using her formidable range of forensic and ...
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"Between August and November 1888, at least seven women were murdered in London's Whitechapel area. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear in the East End for months, and gave rise to the sobriquet that was to become shorthand for a serial killer - Jack the Ripper." "For over a hundred years the murders have remained among the world's greatest unsolved crimes, and a wealth of theories have been posited which have pointed the finger at royalty, a barber, a doctor, a woman and an artist. Using her formidable range of forensic and technical skills, Patricia Cornwell has applied the rigorous discipline of twenty-first-century police investigation to the extant material, and here presents the hard evidence that the perpetrator was the world-famous artist Walter Sickert." By using techniques unknown in the late Victorian age, Patricia Cornwell has exposed Sickert as the author of the infamous Ripper letters to the Metropolitan Police. Her detailed analysis of his paintings shows how his art continually depicted his horrific mutilation of his victims, and her examination of this man's birth defects, the consequent genital surgical interventions and their effects on his upbringing presents a casebook example of how a psychopathic killer is created.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Mystery and thriller writer extraordinaire Patricia Cornwell uses her crime-solving know-how to solve one of history's most baffling cases: the infamous crime spree of Jack the Ripper. Cornwell has invested millions in her quest to reveal who the Ripper really was, and the results of her intense investigation are guaranteed to amaze and enthrall.
Publishers Weekly
"I knew the identity of a murderer and couldn't possibly avert my gaze," declares bestselling author and Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine chairman of the board Cornwell (The Last Precinct). Claiming to have cracked the unsolved case of Jack the Ripper, the author, combining superb investigative skills and meticulous research with modern technology, presents strong, albeit largely circumstantial, evidence as to the true culprit in this uncharacteristic work of nonfiction. Cornwell's man is the handsome, educated actor-cum-artist Walter Richard Sickert, and she delves into his life, probing the psychological pain and sexual deformity which led to his "impotent fury." Screen, stage and TV actress Burton's splendid, professional narration deserves much of the credit for the book's smooth translation to abridged audio format. Transporting listeners to 19th century England, Burton easily transitions between American and English accents, bringing an authentic, resonating flavor to the era and to the desperate lives of London's "unfortunates" who became the killer's prey. Despite some tedious and over-detailed readings of medical records, laws and police reports, as well as descriptive accounts of Cornwell's experiences re-opening the case, this audiobook turns potentially dry material into an enthralling exploration. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 11). (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Cornwell's mission is to prove that artist and iconoclast Walter Sickert was the real Jack the Ripper. Her method is an intriguing though somewhat repetitious circling through Victorian London, where she pulls together circumstantial evidence and coincidences as well as an analysis of his artwork to name him a viable suspect if not the indisputable perpetrator. The portrait of the times and obstacles faced by the authorities is often more intriguing, as the author works through the historical flaws, glitches, mistakes, and limitations of the original investigations. Kate Reading's familiarity with Cornwell's fiction may be jarring for those used to her as the voice of Kay Scarpetta or Pete Marino. Ultimately, Cornwell's expertise as the creator of a modern crime world helps her as a writer more than a "case closer." A popular choice for true crime audiences, historians, and Cornwell fans; Books on Tape's library edition may be a better investment, especially since both publishers use the same reader.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641568657
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/11/2002
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia  Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell's most recent bestsellers include Red Mist, Port Mortuary, and Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. Her earlier works include Postmortem—the only novel to win five major crime awards in a single year—and Cruel and Unusual, which won Britain’s prestigious Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 1993. Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself won the 1999 Sherlock Award for the best detective created by an American author.


Patricia Cornwell writes crime fiction from an unusually informed point of view. While many writers are, as she says, conjuring up "fantasy" assumptions regarding what really goes into tracking criminals and examining crime scenes, Cornwell really does walk the walk, which is why her novels ring so true.

Before becoming one of the most widely recognized, respected, and read writers in contemporary crime fiction, she worked as a police reporter for The Charlotte Observer and as a computer analyst in the chief medical examiner's office in Virginia. During this period of her life, Cornwell observed literally hundreds of autopsies. While the vast majority of people would surely regard such work unsavory beyond belief, Cornwell was acquiring valuable information that would not only help her write the groundbreaking 2002 study Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed but would also enrich her fiction with uncommon authenticity.

"Most of these crime scene shows... are what I call ‘Harry Potter' policing," she said in a candid, heated interview. "They're absolutely fantasy. And the problem is the general public watches these, 60 million people a week or whatever, and they think what they're seeing is true." If Cornwell comes off as a bit vehement in her criticism of television shows meant to simply entertain, that's just because she takes her work so seriously.

Not that Cornwell's novels are ever anything short of entertaining, even if their grisly details may require extra-strong stomachs of her readers. She has created a tremendously well-defined and complex character in her favorite fictional crime solver Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Cornwell introduced medical examiner Scarpetta in her first novel, Postmortem in 1990. Today, Scarpetta is still cracking cases and cracking open cadavers. (She has even inspired a cook book called Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen.) In addition, Cornwell writes more lighthearted cop capers in her Andy Brazil & Judy Hammer series.

Good To Know

Cornwell knows what its like to shatter records. Her debut, Postmortem, was the only novel by a first-time author to ever win five major mystery awards in a single year.

Cornwell may be a former crime solver, but she shudders to think that her books could actually contribute to crime. In fact, she says she has received "thank you" notes from prisoners who claim they have gleaned information from her books that might help them cover their tracks while committing future crimes.

If parody is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Cornwell has a fan in Chris Elliott. The professional wisenheimer published a hilarious takeoff on her true crime book Portrait of a Killer called The Shroud of the Thwacker.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Patricia Daniels Cornwell (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Boston, MA and New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Miami, Florida
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Davidson College, 1979; King College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


Monday, August 6, 1888, was a bank holiday in London. The city was a carnival of wondrous things to do for as little as pennies if one could spare a few.

The bells of Windsor's Parish Church and St. George's Chapel rang throughout the day. Ships were dressed in flags, and royal salutes boomed from cannons to celebrate the Duke of Edinburgh's forty-fourth birthday.

The Crystal Palace offered a dazzling spectrum of special programs: organ recitals, military band concerts, a "monster display of fireworks," a grand fairy ballet, ventriloquists, and "world famous minstrel performances." Madame Tussaud's featured a special wax model of Frederick II lying in state and, of course, the ever-popular Chamber of Horrors. Other delicious horrors awaited those who could afford theater tickets and were in the mood for a morality play or just a good old-fashioned fright. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was playing to sold-out houses. The famous American actor Richard Mansfield was brilliant as Jekyll and Hyde at Henry Irving's Lyceum, and the Opera Comique had its version, too, although poorly reviewed and in the midst of a scandal because the theater had adapted Robert Louis Stevenson's novel without permission.

On this bank holiday there were horse and cattle shows; special "cheap rates" on trains; and the bazaars in Covent Garden overflowing with Sheffield plates, gold, jewelry, used military uniforms. If one wanted to pretend to be a soldier on this relaxed but rowdy day, he could do so with little expense and no questions asked. Or one could impersonate a copper by renting an authentic Metropolitan Police uniform from Angel's Theatrical Costumes in Camden Town, scarcely a two-mile stroll from where the handsome Walter Richard Sickert lived.

Twenty-eight-year-old Sickert had given up his obscure acting career for the higher calling of art. He was a painter, an etcher, a student of James McNeill Whistler, and a disciple of Edgar Degas. Young Sickert was himself a work of art: slender, with a strong upper body from swimming, a perfectly angled nose and jaw, thick wavy blond hair, and blue eyes that were as inscrutable and penetrating as his secret thoughts and piercing mind. One might almost have called him pretty, except for his mouth, which could narrow into a hard, cruel line. His precise height is unknown, but a friend of his described him as a little above average. Photographs and several items of clothing donated to the Tate Gallery Archive in the 1980s suggest he was probably five foot eight or nine.

Sickert was fluent in German, English, French, and Italian. He knew Latin well enough to teach it to friends, and he was well acquainted with Danish and Greek and possibly knew a smattering of Spanish and Portuguese. He was said to read the classics in their original languages, but he didn't always finish a book once he started it. It wasn't uncommon to find dozens of novels strewn about, opened to the last page that had snagged his interest. Mostly, Sickert was addicted to newspapers, tabloids, and journals.

Until his death in 1942, his studios and studies looked like a recycling center for just about every bit of newsprint to roll off the European presses. One might ask how any hard-working person could find time to go through four, five, six, ten newspapers a day, but Sickert had a method. He didn't bother with what didn't interest him, whether it was politics, economics, world affairs, wars, or people. Nothing mattered to Sickert unless it somehow affected Sickert.

He usually preferred to read about the latest entertainment to come to town, to scrutinize art critiques, to turn quickly to any story about crime, and to search for his own name if there was any reason it might be in print on a given day. He was fond of letters to the editor, especially ones he wrote and signed with a pseudonym. Sickert relished knowing what other people were doing, especially in the privacy of their own not-always-so-tidy Victorian lives. "Write, write, write!" he would beg his friends. "Tell me in detail all sorts of things, things that have amused you and how and when and where, and all sorts of gossip about every one."

Sickert despised the upper class, but he was a star stalker. He somehow managed to hobnob with the major celebrities of the day: Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, Aubrey Beardsley, Henry James, Max Beerbohm, Oscar Wilde, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Rodin, AndrŽ Gide, ƒdouard Dujardin, Proust, Members of Parliament. But he did not necessarily know many of them, and no one-famous or otherwise-ever really knew him. Not even his first wife, Ellen, who would turn forty in less than two weeks. Sickert may not have given much thought to his wife's birthday on this bank holiday, but it was extremely unlikely he had forgotten it.

He was much admired for his amazing memory. Throughout his life he would amuse dinner guests by performing long passages of musicals and plays, dressed for the parts, his recitations flawless. Sickert would not have forgotten that Ellen's birthday was August 18th and a very easy occasion to ruin. Maybe he would "forget." Maybe he would vanish into one of his secret rented hovels that he called studios. Maybe he would take Ellen to a romantic cafŽ in Soho and leave her alone at the table while he dashed off to a music hall and then stayed out the rest of the night. Ellen loved Sickert all her sad life, despite his cold heart, his pathological lying, his self-centeredness, and his habit of disappearing for days-even weeks-without warning or explanation.

Walter Sickert was an actor by nature more than by virtue of employment. He lived on the center stage of his secret, fantasy-driven life and was just as comfortable moving about unnoticed in the deep shadows of isolated streets as he was in the midst of throbbing crowds. He had a great range of voice and was a master of greasepaint and wardrobe. So gifted at disguise was he that as a boy he often went about unrecognized by his neighbors and family.

Throughout his long and celebrated life, he was notorious for constantly changing his appearance with a variety of beards and mustaches, for his bizarre dress that in some cases constituted costumes, for his hairstyles-including shaving his head. He was, wrote French artist and friend Jacques-Emile Blanche, a "Proteus." Sickert's "genius for camouflage in dress, in the fashion of wearing his hair, and in his manner of speaking rival Fregoli's," Blanche recalled. In a portrait Wilson Steer painted of Sickert in 1890, Sickert sports a phony-looking mustache that resembles a squirrel's tail pasted above his mouth.

He also had a penchant for changing his name. His acting career, paintings, etchings, drawings, and prolific letters to colleagues, friends, and newspapers reveal many personas: Mr. Nemo (Latin for "Mr. Nobody"), An Enthusiast, A Whistlerite, Your Art Critic, An Outsider, Walter Sickert, Sickert, Walter R. Sickert, Richard Sickert, W. R. Sickert, W.S., R.S., S., Dick, W. St., Rd. Sickert LL.D., R.St. A.R.A., and RDSt A.R.A.

Sickert did not write his memoirs, keep a diary or calendar, or date most of his letters or works of art, so it is difficult to know where he was or what he was doing on or during any given day, week, month, or even year. I could find no record of his whereabouts or activities on August 6, 1888, but there is no reason to suspect he was not in London. Based on notes he scribbled on music-hall sketches, he was in London just two days earlier, on August 4th.

Whistler would be getting married in London five days later, on August 11th. Although Sickert hadn't been invited to the small, intimate wedding, he wasn't the sort to miss it-even if he had to spy on it.

The great painter James McNeill Whistler had fallen deeply in love with the "remarkably pretty" Beatrice Godwin, who was to occupy the most prominent position in his life and entirely change the course of it. Likewise, Whistler occupied one of the most prominent positions in Sickert's life and had entirely changed the course of it. "Nice boy, Walter," Whistler used to say in the early 1880s when he was still fond of the aspiring and extraordinarily gifted young man. By the time of Whistler's engagement their friendship had cooled, but Sickert could not have been prepared for what must have seemed a shockingly unexpected and complete abandonment by the Master he idolized, envied, and hated. Whistler and his new bride planned to honeymoon and travel the rest of the year in France, where they hoped to reside permanently.

The anticipated connubial bliss of the flamboyant artistic genius and egocentric James McNeill Whistler must have been disconcerting to his former errand boy-apprentice. One of Sickert's many roles was the irresistible womanizer, but offstage he was nothing of the sort. Sickert was dependent on women and loathed them. They were intellectually inferior and useless except as caretakers or objects to manipulate, especially for art or money. Women were a dangerous reminder of an infuriating and humiliating secret that Sickert carried not only to the grave but beyond it, because cremated bodies reveal no tales of the flesh, even if they are exhumed. Sickert was born with a deformity of his penis requiring surgeries when he was a toddler that would have left him disfigured if not mutilated. He probably was incapable of an erection. He may not have had enough of a penis left for penetration, and it is quite possible he had to squat like a woman to urinate.

"My theory of the crimes is that the criminal has been badly disfigured," says an October 4, 1888, letter filed with the Whitechapel Murders papers at the Corporation of London Records Office, "-possibly had his privy member destroyed-& he is now revenging himself on the sex by these atrocities." The letter is written in purple pencil and enigmatically signed "Scotus," which could be the Latin for Scotsman. "Scotch" can mean a shallow incision or to cut. Scotus could also be a strange and erudite reference to Johannes Scotus Eriugena, a ninth-century theologian and teacher of grammar and dialectics.

For Walter Sickert to imagine Whistler in love and enjoying a sexual relationship with a woman might well have been the catalyst that made Sickert one of the most dangerous and confounding killers of all time. He began to act out what he had scripted most of his life, not only in thought but in boyhood sketches that depicted women being abducted, tied up, and stabbed.

The psychology of a violent, remorseless murderer is not defined by connecting dots. There are no facile explanations or infallible sequences of cause and effect. But the compass of human nature can point a certain way, and Sickert's feelings could only have been inflamed by Whistler's marrying the widow of architect and archaeologist Edward Godwin, the man who had lived with actress Ellen Terry and fathered her children.

The sensuously beautiful Ellen Terry was one of the most famous actresses of the Victorian era, and Sickert was fixated on her. As a teenager, he had stalked her and her acting partner, Henry Irving. Now Whistler had links to not one but both objects of Sickert's obsessions, and these three stars in Sickert's universe formed a constellation that did not include him. The stars cared nothing about him. He was truly Mr. Nemo.

But in the late summer of 1888 he gave himself a new stage name that during his life would never be linked to him, a name that soon enough would be far better known than those of Whistler, Irving, and Terry.

The actualization of Jack the Ripper's violent fantasies began on the carefree bank holiday of August 6, 1888, when he slipped out of the wings to make his debut in a series of ghastly performances that were destined to become the most celebrated so-called murder mystery in history. It is widely and incorrectly believed that his violent spree ended as abruptly as it began, that he struck out of nowhere and then vanished from the scene.

Decades passed, then fifty years, then a hundred, and his bloody sexual crimes have become anemic and impotent. They are puzzles, mystery weekends, games, and "Ripper Walks" that end with pints in the Ten Bells pub. Saucy Jack, as the Ripper sometimes called himself, has starred in moody movies featuring famous actors and special effects and spates of what the Ripper said he craved: blood, blood, blood. His butcheries no longer inspire fright, rage, or even pity as his victims moulder quietly, some of them in unmarked graves.

—from Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell, Copyright © November 2002, G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Mr. Nobody 1
Chapter 2 The Tour 8
Chapter 3 The Unfortunates 16
Chapter 4 By Some Person Unknown 31
Chapter 5 A Glorious Boy 41
Chapter 6 Walter and the Boys 59
Chapter 7 The Gentleman Slummer 74
Chapter 8 A Bit of Broken Looking Glass 86
Chapter 9 The Dark Lantern 98
Chapter 10 Medicine of the Courts 107
Chapter 11 Summer Night 120
Chapter 12 The Young and Beautiful 130
Chapter 13 Hue and Cry 141
Chapter 14 Crochet Work and Flowers 154
Chapter 15 A Painted Letter 175
Chapter 16 Stygian Blackness 193
Chapter 17 The Streets Until Dawn 205
Chapter 18 A Shiny Black Bag 219
Chapter 19 These Characters About 229
Chapter 20 Beyond Identity 241
Chapter 21 A Great Joke 253
Chapter 22 Barren Fields and Slag-Heaps 262
Chapter 23 The Guest Book 277
Chapter 24 In a Horse-Bin 289
Chapter 25 Three Keys 300
Chapter 26 The Daughters of Cobden 316
Chapter 27 The Darkest Night in the Day 331
Chapter 28 Further from the Grave 352
Bibliography 367
Index 381
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 161 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 161 Customer Reviews
  • 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


    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 September 17, 2012

    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 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.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2012

    Makes a great case

    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.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011


    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.

    1 out of 1 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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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Lost Criminal

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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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 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 August 19, 2004

    badly written

    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.

    1 out of 1 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 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


    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


    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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  • Posted February 23, 2014

    Patricia Cornwell lists and explains the evidence available to h

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    Very entertaining book. I'd be willing to bet that most of these

    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...

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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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