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In his introduction to A BRUTAL CHILL IN AUGUST, Alan Clark adds some historical context that I never knew before, despite being an avid follower of the Whitechapel killer. That fatal August was pretty chilly due to the eruption of Krakatoa that spread fine ash over the northern hemisphere. As I read this, I mentally bemoaned the inadequacy of history texts in presenting events in a broad enough context. My motto is that any day that I learn something new is a good day… so today is one of those days.
Although this is part of the Jack the Ripper Victim Series, each book is a standalone novel not about Jack but about one of his victims of which the canon tells us there were five. A BRUTAL CHILL IN AUGUST is the story of Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, Jack's first victim. In creating a biography from what is known of the victims, Alan Clark has obviously done his homework with regard to the history of Victorian London. He explores the ways of superstition and religion in that time period in such a way that his background as an artist and writer in the horror genre add just the right flavor to the tale, No doubt, Jack the Ripper is the narrative of an unsolved murder spree, but Jack himself has become a time-honored trope in horror.
Let's forget about Jack for the moment because he is truly peripheral to the point here. Polly Nichols comes alive in a world beset by the ills of adherence to class structure. If you are poor, you live and work with others of your class. This class structure led to such travesties as the workhouses which were little more than forced labor prisons for those in need.
This series has led to some personal experimentation with listening to audio books without having read the text. The narrator, Alicia Rose, does a five-star job of reading. Her British accent enhances the story by putting you there, in London. She speaks clearly and with the right emphasis to bring Polly Nichols to life. I could be easily persuaded to listen to anything she might perform.
The story ends as you would expect, no change in history here. However, if you read this book on Kindle, you will miss out on the chilling musical rendition the Audible edition provides.
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