Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper — Case Closed


Serial killers and mass murderers have been inciting our imagination since the dawn of time. Their aura of mystery, the brutality of their acts keeps making us going back, analysing and reanalysing their deeds.

Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers in the history of mankind. Few reasons contribute to that status, one of them being the location of his games (London at the end of the 19th century), the other being the grusome display of the bodies (throats slashed, bowels and uterus removed…) and of course his completely unknown identity which enabeled him to escape from the police.

Patricia Cornwell revisits the crime scene. She is armed with psychologists, criminalists and an army of others scientists that will help her solve the case that has been puzzling Scotland Yard up until now.

She quickly establishes the fact that Jack the Ripper had to be no other than the famous painter Walter Richard Sickert. She supports this claim with most interesting comparisons between the actual murders and the portraits that Sickert was painting. She goes into further length explaining how the paper the letters were written on matches the paper that Sickert used. How, eventhough they were written in different hand-writings, the letters were written in the same style. She is good at describing how the life was like at the turn of the century, how the police worked and what were the rules of police work. However, she does make a fair share of mistakes.

First mistake, she keeps involving herself. I know it`s the american way of writing a book, but I disliked it. This first-person view that she adopts from time to time gets on my nerves. Second mistake she makes is that she decides in the beginning who the killer was and then does not look nor left nor right. Third, she makes some statements based on nothing. She is describing some of the crimes in great details and does not say where those details came from. Fourth, I was reading the slovene translation of the book and so I cannot say whether it was her or the translator`s fault but there are some serious mistakes in there. Mass killers and serial murderers are not the same. We have two totally different words for them in slovene too and sometimes, those two categories get confused. Mass murderers kill a bunch of people at once (tower and a sniper rifle). Serial killers take time. They are patient. That is the whole point of differentiating those two. And they get mixed up in the book sometimes. Lost in translation?

Somehow I expected something more from the book, something less personal (there is a passage where she describes how she was not sure if she was going to be able to finish the book, because “Jack was getting to me”. Jesus lady…) and something more supported in terms of science.

She does make a fairly interesting DNA comparison which was obtained off of a letter but the whole thing reads and feels like just another brain-teaser, similar to Da Vinci Code, where facts fuel the imagination which then takes everything into the orbit of unbelievable.

A good read, but nothing as I imagined. And definitely not worth the title it bares.