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Robert House presents a restrained and plausible reconstruction of the Whitechapel murders. His candidate for Jack the Ripper is Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who was hospitalized for insanity not long after the Ripper's last and most vicious murder.
The fact that the murders stopped around the same time Kosminski was put away is only one of many suggestive facts House presents. Kosminski was, in fact, on the CID's list of suspects. FBI profilers who have reviewed the case have concluded that the Ripper was a "disorganized lust murderer," a schizophrenic and psychopath; and have also identified Kosminski as the suspect most closely fitting that description.
But House is careful to note that this is a matter of hunches and probabilities rather than certainties. Does he think Kosminski was the killer? Yes. Does he claim that he's proved it, and that the case is closed? No. Mostly what he tries to do in the book is explode some of the myths and mystique that have grown up around the case, and to demonstrate that the Ripper wasn't so much "good" as incredibly lucky.
Joe Barrett's gravelly narration is perfect for the story. One possible pitfall is the variety of English and Irish accents he's called on to provide: I think they sound pretty good, but then again, I'm an American whose main experience of English accents is in other audiobooks. In any case, Barrett gives a consistently interesting performance, maintaining the pace of the narrative despite its legal and psychological complexities.
And now, after a brief foray into the world of Ripperology - I watched two movies on the subject and read a Ripper-inspired novel while I was listening to this - it's time to put this topic back on the shelf. It's a disturbing and haunting subject, the terrain of nightmares and nausea. It's not so much that the women suffered: if the police surgeons were correct, they died very quickly, and what followed was not torture killing but the abuse of a corpse. What's disturbing is contemplating the mind of someone who would want to do that. House is a sane and humane guide, but one trip down this lane is enough for me.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
I found this to be a very well-balanced and thoughtful consideration of the possibility that Aaron Kozminski might have been Jack the Ripper. House is careful not to attempt too much - he can neither prove Kozminski's guilt nor even claim there was a consensus among those at Scotland Yard about the prime suspect - but he makes a good case for not dismissing out of hand the comments of former Assistant Commissioner of the CID, Sir Robert Anderson, or the marginialia of former Chief Inspector Donald Swanson.
The particular strengths of this work lie in 1) its exploration of what Kozminski's schizophrenia might have meant in terms of his behavior and compulsions, and why descriptions of his habits years later should not lead Ripperologists to ignore Kozminki's candidacy as the Ripper; and 2) his consideration of the geography of the murders and how they fit with what we know of Kozminki's whereabouts during the Autumn of Terror. Most of all, I especially appreciated how House put the Ripper killings and Kozminki's life experiences in the larger context of the antisemitism of the time and the particular prejudice against the "sweating" professions such as tailoring. This sheds light not only on House's main argument, but also on other aspects of the murders, such as the actions taken by authorities regarding the Ghoulston Street Graffito.
This is an able analysis of the murders with a fresh perspective and conscientious introductions of new information along the way; whether or not Kozminksi is "your" suspect, I recommend this to all who are interested in the historical period and the mystery itself.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this book. The Jack the Ripper cases have been written by many who feel they have a new spin on this unsolved case. I enjoyed the way the author led you through the history of the case and the life in these areas which may have lead to the brutality of the individual murders. I would happily recommend this book to any Ripper enthusiast looking for a slightly different approach to this well studied serial killer.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful