5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A house built on straw
, 13 May 2011
This review is from: Uncle Jack (Hardcover)
Tony Williams is a competent enough writer, but the idea that he has come up with a likely candidate for Jack the Ripper in his distant relative, the eminent Victorian medic Sir John Williams, is a heap of speculation built on very little. Nor is his 'I didn't want to believe it, but...' tone remotely credible; it is quite clear from the outset that Williams wants to convict his famous forebear.
The evidence is scanty to the point of non-existent. Williams lived in London in 1888, he had links to the London Hospital in the Whitechapel area, he may have run informal clinics in Whitechapel, he apparently - though even this is disputed - performed an abortion on one of the Ripper's victims in 1885, he was a strange and rather arrogant man in an unhappy marriage and he is rumoured to have had another woman. Called Mary. Like the Ripper's last victim. And several hundred thousand others in Britain at the time.
Oh, and he left among other things a surgeon's knife to the passion of his later life, the National Library of Wales, which may or may not have human blood on it. Anyone would think he was a surgeon or something. Ah, hang on a minute...
And really that's about it. There is nothing to say that Williams was ever a suspect, no identification evidence, no shred of a motive - though garnering specimens for medical research is hinted at - just nothing. Even the wildly improbable candidature of James Maybrick has the much-debated diary to back it up. That this kind of thesis still gets aired has more to do with our love of conspiracy theories and the wish for 'significant' crimes to have a 'significant' perpetrator, rather than the poor, local, sex-crazed nutcase that Jack the Ripper almost certainly was.
This isn't the worst book ever written on Jack the Ripper, but it's definitely at the Hartlepool United end of the league. If you really want a proper analysis rather than the twisting of selected facts to fit a predetermined conclusion, read Paul Begg or Philip Sugden.
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