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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed Hardcover – Nov 11 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: GP Putnam And Sons; 1st edition (Nov. 11 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399149325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399149320
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.8 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 726 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (488 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #561,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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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Monday, August 6, 1888, was a bank holiday in London. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Paul Ryder on Nov. 11 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Cornwell spent six million dollars of her own money researching Jack the Ripper, and the result is this book. Did she really close the case? Unfortunately, no.
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 25 2002
Format: Hardcover
Most of the positive reviews here are from fans of Cornwell's books. The low ratings are from people who are more familiar
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 12 2002
Format: Hardcover
It's amusing to see Ms. Cornwell present her case with the audacious words Case Closed right in the title. Er, psst, it's called research - might want to look into doing more of it next time out. She used to claim to do it for her other books, but now she's seemingly taken a page out of Ambrose's style book, or whomever she actually got her plagarism ideas from, or he his for that matter.
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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Nov. 13 2002
Format: Hardcover
Cornwell has uncovered some suggestive but far from definitive evidence, which leads her to conclude that the artist Walter Sickert was responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders, as well as others never ascribed to the Ripper. Her approach is inflated and highly speculative--lots of "would have-could have-must have"--and rests to a surprising degree on pseudo-Freudian "profiling" of Sickert. Illustrations that compare known drawings of Sickert's to Ripper letters are interesting, but also be prepared for some gory and (I think) gratuitous crime scene and autopsy photographs. The book was a disappointment, and I returned it to Amazon less than 24 hours after its arrival.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 13 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wealth of information. Instead of relying on theories, Ms. Cornwell investigates these crimes as if they just happened. The book was compulsively readable. I bought it the first day it came out and barely put it down for two days except to go to work!
I have to say that I am convinced that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. Cornwell's handwriting and language experts looked at his letters and way of writing and compared them to Ripper letters. I don't want to give too much away but your jaw will drop as this mystery is exposed.
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