The concept of the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, facing the world's most infamous killer, Jack the Ripper, is certainly not a new one. The number of books dealing with such a meeting is far too many to count, and there are two very enjoyable films which deal with such a meeting. It seems as though I have hardly scratched the surface of his this supposed sub-genre having read only "Dust and Shadow" and the very interesting e-Book, "Bloody London." However, I finally found the time to read "The Whitechapel Horrors" which at 440 pages long, certainly seems as though it would be the definitive book on the subject.
The author of this book, Edward B. Hanna, is clearly a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast. His characterizations of Holmes and Watson are wonderful. It is evident that Hanna's interpretation of the character is based off of Jeremy Brett, for Holmes' actions and dialogue are clearly reminiscent of the great actor. The book is written in the third person and therefore the writing style is not in the vain of Arthur Conan Doyle's. However, if the book is viewed as a non-fiction account of Dr. Watson's story detailing Holmes' struggle against the Ripper, than the book can be thoroughly enjoyed. The writing of the book is detailed and informative, lending wonderful insight into the people who lived during the time, but painting an interesting picture of Victorian London on a whole.
Aside from Holmes and Watson, the book is fruitful with good characterizations. Throughout the book, Holmes and Watson rub elbows with Frederick Abberline, the inspector in charge of the Ripper case, Sir Charles Warren, the head of Scotland Yard, Oscar Wilde and the Prince of Wales. Characters from the canon are plentiful as well - Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, Billy the page and even Shinwell Johnson (from "The Illustrious Client"). Further proof of the author's familiarity with the canon is evident in the fact that the investigation of the Hound of the Baskervilles occurs during the course of the book, and the story is artfully crafted around the events of the most famous Sherlock Holmes novel.
However, the book is not without fault. While the amount of details concerning the Ripper murders are plentiful throughout this book, it felt as though it lacked the true sense of horror which is associated with the five murders. This feeling of horror is evident in the other stellar Holmes/the Ripper novel, "Dust and Shadow." The concept of Sherlock Holmes fighting the Ripper is one which should be written as a Gothic horror/thriller, and that impression did not make itself evident in this book. The other fault I have with this story is the ending. It has been brought up by other reviewers of this book that it was an interesting move on the author's part not to reveal the identity of the murderer. In retrospect the concept is a good one for it allows the reader to consider for themselves who the identity of the killer was, by placing that person's face into the creeping faceless shadow which is described throughout the book. Even though the idea is a different one, after reading the book for more than 400 pages, it is something of a letdown that the author did not reveal the identity of the infamous Whitechapel murderer.
In all, "The Whitechapel Horrors" is an enjoyable Sherlock Holmes novel which although is not a new concept, is a wonderful retelling of it. The book is filled with a great amount of detail and it is evident that the late author did a great deal of research to write the story. This is indeed a historically rich novel and a treat for Sherlock Holmes fans and Jack the Ripper enthusiasts alike.