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Review: I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter

I, RipperIn the fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper murdered five prostitutes in London’s seamy Whitechapel District. He did not just kill – he desecrated with insane glee. Then, after the particularly gruesome slaying of Mary Jane Kelley, he disappeared. For 127 years, Jack haunted the dark corners of our imagination, the archetype of the psychotic killer. We remember him not only for his crimes but because, despite one of the biggest dragnets in London history, he was never caught.

I, Ripper is a vivid reimagining of Jack’s personal story entwined with that of an Irish journalist who covered the case, knew the principals, charted the investigation, and at last, stymied, went off in a new bold direction. These two men stalk each other through a city twisted in fear of the madman’s blade, a cat-and-mouse game that brings to life the sounds and smells of the fleshpot tenderloin of Whitechapel and all the lurid acts that fueled the Ripper headlines.

Jack the Ripper is probably one of the biggest mysteries of the 19th century. His ability to taunt the police and get away with murdering five prostitutes has left his name infamous.

While the subject matter at hand is interesting, I wasn’t really impressed with Hunter’s writing. While he’s a solid writer, who clearly did his research, he failed in his execution of trying to twist the story into an interesting fictional tale. One of his biggest pitfalls was the fact Jack managed to kill the first four victims before you even get halfway through the book. This causes the other half of the book to drag out and really causes the reader to lose interest in the tale at hand.

To be fair, Hunter managed to capture the ideals of Victorian-era Britain and he was able to create extremely interesting death scenes. However, there’s one reason why I don’t like much of the British literature and that’s because as a whole, they are dry and uninteresting. This can be said for much of the book. Especially in scenes where “Jeb” and Professor Dare discuss their profile of Jack the Ripper. Which leads to my next complaint: Professor Thomas Dare. As smart and intuitive as Jeb is, he is blind as can be when it comes to his involvement with the professor. For one, even after having only met the professor once, Jeb confides in him and even works with him to develop a profile of the killer. He never once finds Dare’s interest in the story to be odd nor does he question Dare’s wild and absurd theories of who and what is Jack the Ripper. For example: Dare claims Jack wrote Juwes as opposed to Jews because he was dyslexic. This idea is so out of left field, that it should have thrown up a red flag for Jeb. Even more so when Dare completes Jack’s message. Another red flag should have come when Dare proclaims Jack is a humanitarian. Anyone with such strong convictions of justifications for Jack the Ripper’s murdering of prostitutes, surely should be viewed with caution, if for nothing more than extremist views and attitudes.

Nevertheless, when one of Jeb’s colleagues expresses a word of caution about Professor Dare’s behavior, Jeb is nothing but dismissive and outraged. Heck, even when the truth finally comes to be, he can’t bring himself to look further into the story for another twenty-four years. Proving Jeb is at the very least, so extremely gullible, that he’s unable to face the truth of his friend’s deception and actions.

All in all, while Hunter had a clear idea of how he wanted the story to turn out, he failed in the one thing that matters most with books: Keeping it interesting. Nor does he ever bother to address the fact there were possibly other victims of Jack the Ripper. The only thing he does manage to do, is point out the obvious fact that the infamous “Ripper” letters were simply a media hoax. Especially for anyone who has actually seen the copies. I say this, because the handwriting is obviously different between the Dear Boss and From Hell letters. A fact most can dismiss by proclaiming the killer may have been rushed in the latter. But, that doesn’t cause someone to change the way they write to the point of having letter written backwards (for example, the I in the From Hell letter is inverted compared to the ones in the Dear Boss letter.)

So if you are looking for a new take on this old tale, I would suggest you avoid this book. With the exception of his ability of creating graphic imagery during the murders, there is little left to be interested in.

Rating

Gold StarGold Star

About Kristine

As an aspiring author, avid bookworm, fitness fanatic and dedicated mother, there just aren't enough hours in the day. I write or post about things I'm passionate about and spend my time trying to make the most of every day. Life may be a tough journey, but I have my ruby red slippers and am content on skipping along this yellow brick road until the end of the line.

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