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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed [Audio Cassette]

Patricia Daniels Cornwell , Kate Reading
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (488 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2002
In this headline-making new work, Cornwell turns her trademark skills for meticulous research and scientific expertise on one of the most chilling cases of serial murder in the history of crime-the slayings of Jack the Ripper that terrorized 1880s London.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

"I knew the identity of a murderer and couldn't possibly avert my gaze," declares bestselling author and Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine chairman of the board Cornwell (The Last Precinct). Claiming to have cracked the unsolved case of Jack the Ripper, the author, combining superb investigative skills and meticulous research with modern technology, presents strong, albeit largely circumstantial, evidence as to the true culprit in this uncharacteristic work of nonfiction. Cornwell's man is the handsome, educated actor-cum-artist Walter Richard Sickert, and she delves into his life, probing the psychological pain and sexual deformity which led to his "impotent fury." Screen, stage and TV actress Burton's splendid, professional narration deserves much of the credit for the book's smooth translation to abridged audio format. Transporting listeners to 19th century England, Burton easily transitions between American and English accents, bringing an authentic, resonating flavor to the era and to the desperate lives of London's "unfortunates" who became the killer's prey. Despite some tedious and over-detailed readings of medical records, laws and police reports, as well as descriptive accounts of Cornwell's experiences re-opening the case, this audiobook turns potentially dry material into an enthralling exploration.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Patricia Cornwell's six million dollar man... 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
1.0 out of 5 stars Silly Theory Nov. 25 2002
By A Customer
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Same old guesses, signed by yet another author... Nov. 12 2002
By A Customer
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Case Closed? 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research and storytelling Nov. 13 2002
By A Customer
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read and an interesting take on the biggest whodunnit of the...
Very interesting read...good to the last drop.
Published 22 days ago by christina parker
3.0 out of 5 stars Jack the Ripper, Case closed
The book was in disappointing condition. It indicated it was in good condition but the spine was not attached. Read more
Published on Dec 24 2011 by Patricia Winterflood
2.0 out of 5 stars Ludicrous
It would be unfair to describe Ms Cornwell's Jack the Ripper theory as being the most ridiculous to date. Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2010 by C. J. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Classic Ripper
"If you want the quintessential classic Ripper novel you have to go no further then Patricia Cornwell's 'non-fiction account'. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2008 by S. Moore
1.0 out of 5 stars Still open
One of the most insidious phrases in the English language is: "It's obvious that..." Nasty little phrase. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2007 by E. A Solinas
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute tosh: says more about Cornwell than Sickert
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 more
Published on July 12 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and Premature, and That's Being Generous
I am a fan of Cornwell. I find her to be an intelligent woman, an interesting interview, and a talented author... Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by Orangeman
3.0 out of 5 stars Case closed? Not quite but....
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
Published on July 9 2004 by Dynomoose
2.0 out of 5 stars Histories Mysteries
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 more
Published on July 7 2004 by douglas barton
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait Of A Killer
I rather enjoyed this audio, even though it has suffered much backlash. I would hope that people would be as dedicated to solving a mystery killer crime as this author. Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by K. Weems
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