This is an excellent introduction to Ripperology for the uninitiated; likewise, it is very useful for someone, like myself, who has read about Jack the Ripper fairly extensively in the past and just needed a good brush-up before taking up the mantle of amateur detective again. Don't worry--I'm not going to name a suspect here in this review (partly because I certainly do not know the true identity of Jack the Ripper). I leave the theorizing to the writers who contributed to this book. These contributors come from different walks of life, and their proffered theories range from the ludicrous to the seemingly substantive. Thankfully, no chapters are given to Stephen Knight's wild "royal conspiracy," although it is mentioned on occasion for the purpose of repeating how ridiculous such ideas are. The subject of the Maybrick diary is broached, with a good balance of positive and negative reactions to it (personally, I think it is a fake). There is one chapter that did annoy me somewhat, even though I can understand the point of it. Basically, and I won't identify him here, the contributor argues that X was the Ripper, presents evidence (circumstantial, of course, which is really the best that any theorist can offer in this case) of why this person was the Ripper, then ends the section with a Gotcha!. See how easy it is to build a case around any "suspect," he says--while that is a valid point, anyone who has read anything about this case knows the fragility and circumstantial nature of virtually every piece of evidence extant in the field, and I for one would not have chosen to waste my time reading a chapter that, in the end, was essentially nonsense.
The first section of the book , I should point out, consists of a very useful timeline and summation of the events and evidence, what the editors call the "undisputed facts." While no single piece of evidence is truly "undisputed" among Ripperologists, this section does provide an objective look at the subject matter. It is followed by sections specifically addressing the witness statements (many of which are of course contradictory and/or unreliable, which the editors point out), autopsy reports, the controversial "Ripper letters," police views, and disputed texts. Anyone who reads through that introductory session will have a useful foundation of knowledge to draw upon when interpreting the competing theories that make up the bulk of the book. That being said, any reader would really benefit from having another source of an encyclopedic nature handy (and there are such books out there) because it can be confusing to keep all of the names straight when there are so many suspects that the contributors ask us to consider.
All in all, this is an excellent source of information on Jack the Ripper. The background information provided by the editors is quite objective and fact-oriented, which is a rare find in books on this subject. In most cases, someone decides who the Ripper surely was and then goes about finding "facts" to fit his/her theory. That is certainly what some of the contributors to this book have done. The editors, commendably, have not done that; they do not even offer any "views" on the individual theories presented here. Their "just the facts, ma'am" approach is much appreciated and welcome. While this is not the "best" book on the subject, it may well be the best introduction available to the history and myth of the Whitechapel murderer.
on 31 July 2010
Ripperology moves quickly. It makes the microchip development seem slow. Leave the country for a while and you'll come back to a new paperback being serialised in the Daily Mail and a body being exhumed from some Suburban cemetery. By its nature therefore any "Mammoth Book" on the subject is likely to become obsolete (to a certain extent) quicker than your last Apple product. Taking this all into account, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper is a value-for-money starting point on the subject. I love it, and will keep it as a reference book until such point as the suspect merry-go-round has probably went round full circle.
on 9 September 2013
For those who are already familiar with the leading (and perhaps not so leading) suspects, and the facts behind the case, this probably isn't for you. For those who are not so well versed, this is a great book.
It starts with an timeline of events (some definitely Ripper related, some less obviously so), and then covers the facts around the murders and the main people definitely associated with the events. After that, the book provides a series of essays from different authors where they express their viewpoint on who was or wasn't the Ripper. This is the meat of the book for most people as many suspects are covered (some twice) and the selections and suspicions are explained and justified. No doubt some will seem ludicrous to you, and some will strike a chord. Overall, I found the quality of the essays somewhat of a mixed bag, but generally interesting.
Finally, there is information about the weather on the day of each murders, as well as a catalogue of TV shows, films, and books about the Ripper.
Do we find out who the real Jack the Ripper is? No, but that isn't really the point of the book (or perhaps even possible now). But it will probably inspire you to further reading!
on 26 January 2014
I've been fascinated in the Jack the ripper story for many years and I've watched films,documentaries and read lots of books. This book as to be one of the best I've ever read, it mentions a lot of good suspects. James kelly and Joseph Barnett do seem good suspects. It's a shame they never caught him, but maybe they did catch him and had to release him for lack of evidence!? No forensics like DNA in those days. Tumblety was another good suspect, a woman hating uteri collector that was in whitechapel at the time of the killings!!!! A fab book I can recommend to anyone fascinated in the Jack the ripper story!!
on 8 February 2015
This is a good starting point for ripper research. Some of it seems a bit confused, but this is just a downside of the books main attraction, that it's written by a number of different authors each presenting their own view, though some authors are more direct and logical than others.
on 10 May 2013
I must have read dozens of books on the subject of the 'Whitehall Murders' and, like many, the answer still proves furtively impossible to attain..... Maybe after about 40/45 years, I would have learnt my lesson as so many authors have totally plausible reasons for their take on the matter. At least this book has virtually everything known except, courtroom transcripts verbatim, plus, it does not attempt to name the culprit, just simple factual evidence in so many theories.
I just had to buy this book for the reference ability, being all together in one place at last rather than picking one book for each idea and then forgetting which one I was seeking..... is there any hope for me and others ???
on 22 November 2002
This detailed and fascinating book contains all the information you will ever need to know about 'Jack the Ripper.' A useful resource for all 'Ripperologists', it examines all the theories and evidence including the recently discovered '17 September' letter, the 'Diary of Jack the Ripper', Walter Sickert et al. Highly recommended.