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Posted August 5, 2013
You would be hard-pressed to locate anyone who doesn't know the story of Jack the Ripper. Time and distance have swollen the legend of the killer who stalked the streets of Whitechapel to immense proportions, but perhaps the mordant fascination of generations can be attributed to one simple fact: the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper remain a mystery. Despite an entire body of exceptionally well-researched works that denounce one man after another as light-heeled Jack, it's doubtful that we'll ever know who dunnit.
Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross E. Lockhart, brings us nineteen spine-tingling tales that attempt to explore the unknowable. Not every story features the eponymous character we can only call `Jack', but each incorporates the macabre fascination that is his legacy. There are stories that unravel the mystery, putting a name and motive to the man who was perhaps the world's first modern serial killer; there are tales dedicated to his gristly legacy and its inheritors. Plausible re-interpretations of historical murders stand side-by-side with modern narratives, might-have-beens, and what-ifs - because something happened, and while we know the what of it, we still don't know the who and how and why.
Marked, in part, by its diversity, the collection can be tentatively labeled a horror anthology - but that's an immense oversimplification. While horror is definitely an underlying theme, the stories run the gamut from supernatural and science fiction to psychoanalysis of a man who literally carved his way into history. An incredible variety of settings and styles, including poetry, are featured herein; there's something for everyone in this anthology. By the same token, there are a few tales that didn't appeal to me quite as much as others, but I can confidently say that that's due to personal preference rather then the writings themselves. Several of my personal favorites are as follows -
"Ripperology", by Orrin Grey, bucks conventional plot development. Events are described in a factual, businesslike style that lends the story an incredible realism; a pervasive sense of something `not quite right' culminates in a spectacular crescendo. The conclusion leaves you desperate for more; it isn't satisfying in the least, and I consider that part of the story's appeal.
"The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker", by Ennis Drake, is one of the most disturbingly delicious stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Its' rambling, disjointed narrative, forcibly melded with detailed descriptions, lend the tale a vivacious reality; the juxtaposition of then and now prompts the disquieting realization that there is little difference between the two.
E. Catherine Tobler's "Once November" is a lyrical, almost wistful composition that is damn near addicting. The subtle subplots buried in the narrative meld into a glorious, overarching whole that left me outright hungry for more.
Brace yourself for a dark ride. But don't be surprised if the stories in this collection don't bother to conform themselves to your expectations; Jack the Ripper's been dodging quantification for over a century, and he - or she - or it - isn't about to start now.
Posted December 10, 2013
No text was provided for this review.