Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert: Patricia Cornwell

London in the 1800s was terrorized by an unknown assailant who stalked & killed his prey. ‘Jack the Ripper’ was what he’d called himself in his numerous letters to the police. Without DNA, computers, or even fingerprinting abilities, the authorities were stumped. Most of their investigations led them to think a low-income, laborer was to blame.

Over the many years since the first Ripper murder, conspiracies and opinions have abounded. Author Patricia Cornwell was lead to and became obsessed with finding the truth. Taking the route of processing the Ripper case with modern technologies, she virtually time traveled to the Ripper’s era. It’s no secret that she has decided she knows his identity.

Walter Sickert is mostly remembered as an angst artist who depended on his wives’ generosity to live. Because he is held in high regard by the art community, her investigation was less than well received. Accusations against her and conflicting theories were tossed about when the first edition of this book was written. Now, with additional pictures, evidence, and information, Cornwell has re-written her case. Within the 570 page, non-fiction work, Patricia Cornwell provides her entire theory on why Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

Whether or not readers agree, and based on the reviews of this book the opinions are mixed, one has to say that her research is impressive and her case is sound. Without a confession or some other such proof, we can never bang the gavel on these murders. Circumstantial evidence, in my opinion, does side with our author. No doubt, this is the most complete, modernized account of the entire case and all the murders involved.

Patricia Cornwell has invested an immense amount of time, energy, and her own money to complete this investigation. No one can argue that she wasn’t all in. That said, it is a one-sided book. Even the title is adamant that Sickert was the Ripper. Although other avenues were briefly mentioned, they all led her directly back to Sickert. Readers won’t find any other plausible Ripper theories in this book.

This specific edition does contain maps & photos to aid in the case. The autopsy photos should make readers grateful that our medical field has advanced! However, there is a lot of repetition in the pages. Many times, Cornwell hammers the point home by reasserting opinion and by providing way too many details about Sickert’s routines. It definitely could have filled less than 570 pages.

I cannot argue her theories and if asked, I’d probably side with her based on the info she’s provided. It’s a compelling case that could be prosecuted in today’s courts. But, there was too much opinion, too many mundane passages and it just lacked a ‘Wow’ factor. If someone chooses to read ‘Ripper’, they must be either very into non-fiction, specifically true  crime, or very into the Ripper in general. It is a time-consuming read that took me much long than usual to finish. I give it 3 stars.

On a separate note, the Kindle edition of this book contained ‘Kindle in Motion’. Basically, this is an interactive feature where pictures and maps move and can be moved. I enjoyed this feature and more Kindle books should utilize it.

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