Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed Hardcover – Nov 11 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Jack the Ripper was renowned artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) according to Cornwell, in case anyone hasn't yet heard. The evidence Cornwell accumulates toward that conclusion in this brilliant, personal, gripping book is very strong, and will persuade many. In May 2001, Cornwell took a tour of Scotland Yard that interested her in the Ripper case, and in Sickert as a suspect. A look at Sickert's "violent" paintings sealed her interest, and she became determined to apply, for the first time ever, modern investigatory and forensic techniques to the crimes that horrified London more than 100 years ago. The book's narrative is complex, as Cornwell details her emotional involvement in the case; re-creates life in Victorian times, particularly in the late 1880s, and especially the cruel existence of the London poor; offers expertly observed scenarios of how, based on the evidence, the killings occurred and the subsequent investigations were conducted; explains what was found by the team of experts she hired; and gives a psycho-biography of Sickert. The book is filled with newsworthy revelations, including the successful use of DNA analysis to establish a link between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two envelopes used by Sickert. There are also powerful comparisons made between Sickert's drawing style and that of the Ripper; between words and turns of phrases used by both men; and much other circumstantial evidence. Also newsworthy is Cornwell's conclusion that Sickert continued to kill long after the Ripper supposedly lay down his blade, reaping dozens of victims over his long life. Compassionate, intense, superbly argued, fluidly written and impossible to put down, this is the finest and most important true-crime book to date of the 21st century. Main selection of the BOMC, Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Can truth be stranger than Cornwell's fiction? Here, the best-selling novelist claims to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Walter Sickert was in France while at least four of the five canonical murders took place. There are nearly a half-dozen independent sources, that we know of, that attest to this fact. Only one of those sources, a letter, is mentioned by Cornwell, and then summarily dismissed because there was no post-mark to prove when it was sent.
Ms. Cornwell claims to have found a match between Sickert's DNA and the Ripper. This is not true. She found a sequence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) on both letters signed "Jack the Ripper" and letters written by Walter Sickert. This is an important distinction. mtDNA, unlike nuclear DNA (which was not found on any of the correspondence), is not unique. A particular mtDNA sequence can be shared by anywhere between 1% and 10% of the population. Ignore the countless problems of DNA contamination and provenance that comes with examining documents over a century old, and you still have the problem that these "Ripper letters" are known to be hoaxes (nearly 600 of them were sent to the press and police from all corners of the globe in 1888 and beyond). On top of that, Sickert's DNA no longer exists - he was cremated after his death. There is no way to tell whether the mtDNA found on Sickert's letters was his, his wife's, a friend's, or that of any of a thousand researchers and students who have handled them in the past sixty years.
Although Patricia claims that the evidence she has amassed would be enough for a jury in 1888 to say "Hang him!", I have to disagree. At best, she has found partial evidence to suggest that perhaps Walter Sickert hoaxed one or more Ripper letters.Read more ›
with the complexities of the Ripper case, not to mention a few
die-hard Ripperologist's opinions as well. Anyone quite familiar with the case could immediately dismiss her claims outright. At the time of the murders Scotland Yard gave SOME credence to only one letter among hundreds received at the news agencies. This is the famous FROM HELL letter which included a piece of a kidney (may or may not have been human) which MAY have come from one of the victims. All the others were considered hoaxes by the authorities, many determined to have been created by journalists to sell copy. Thus linking Sickert to a bunch of hoaxed letters tells us zip. If any of you want to read an excellent account of the Ripper case with only primary source material (ie actual coroner reports, news articles, etc during the time of the murders) and painstaking research I highly recommend Philip Sugden's Complete History of Jack the Ripper. This book details all the crimes from beginning to end with precise information giving you an idea of what the police were really up against.
Much of this material that is presented in this book as *groundbreaking* and *brand. spanking. new.* has actually been covered many times, in books, magazines, and of course ad naseum on the WWW. Most notably, the core theme here, accusations that Mr. Sickert is JtR, or at least an accomplaice, or one of several real killers (OJ anyone?) has been presented again and again. Most notably, if only for it's controversy at the time, was 1978's "Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution" by Stephen Knight. Mr. Knight's tale dared to develop from hint to whisper to shout, that the highest levels of British government and, eek! not unlike this very week!, even the Crown may have been involved in convoluted coverups. Those weren't new ideas in 1978, much less now a generation on.
Well, at least Ms. Cornwell seems as sure of herself as Mr. Knight was of himself during his fifteen minutes.
Two stars for balls, or should I say guts? None for originality. If you're a RipperPhile or live under a rock, by all means buy it. If not - Next!
I am by no means stating that the case is closed. I am merely stating that, despite what her many critics say (and she was several as evidenced here and in the many Ripper forums), Cornwell presents a pretty good case. However, over a century after the killings, it is very difficult to state with confidence that Walter Sickert is the Ripper considering the amount of time that has passed and for the simple matter that circumstantial evidence is just that, circumstantial evidence. I do agree that Cornwell should have refrained from naming her book "Case Closed" even if she had convinced herself that she had solved the mystery. It appears that smug ego that is reflected in her works title has turned many people (and many Ripperologists) off. Had it been titled in a way that illustrates Sickert as an alleged suspect only, it may have been better received. Maybe? Who am I kidding? Maybe not?
The thing that I find interesting is that out of all the men who have been suspected of being the notorious killer, IN MY OPINION, Walter Sickert is one of the few with the most circumstantial evidence against him.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The book was in disappointing condition. It indicated it was in good condition but the spine was not attached. Read morePublished on Dec 24 2011 by frequentamazoner
It would be unfair to describe Ms Cornwell's Jack the Ripper theory as being the most ridiculous to date. Read morePublished on Aug. 6 2010 by C. J. Thompson
"If you want the quintessential classic Ripper novel you have to go no further then Patricia Cornwell's 'non-fiction account'. Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2008 by S. Moore
One of the most insidious phrases in the English language is: "It's obvious that..." Nasty little phrase. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2007 by EA Solinas
I can't think of another character assassination that is as unfounded as this, based as it is on pure conjecture and highly selective and inconclusive 'evidence'. Read morePublished on July 12 2004
I am a fan of Cornwell. I find her to be an intelligent woman, an interesting interview, and a talented author... Read morePublished on July 10 2004 by Orangeman
She's presented us with a very strong theory of who Jack the Ripper was.
The only things she has conclusively proved are: 1: that Walter Richard Sickert wrote some of the... Read more
Apparently congrats are in order! Yes, while British authorities and serial killer devotees have struggled for many years with the mystery of the true identity of Jack the Ripper... Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by douglas barton
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