Patricia Cornwell – The search for ‘Jack the Ripper’

Whilst Patricia Cornwell is mainly known for creating the Kay Scarpetta series, she also ventured into non fiction. As for eample her book about the search for ‘Jack the Ripper’.

To anyone not familiar with the term, ‘Jack the Ripper’, it is a pseudonym given to a serial killer who commited several killings in London in 1888. All the victims were prostitutes and some had their insides cut out which gave the impression that the killer had some medical knowledge. There were several hundred letters sent to the police and some of those are believed to be from the killer.

Patricia Cornwell argues that the killer was Walter Sickert, an artist. She bases that claim on some of his paintings and similarities in the Ripper letters and letters sent by him to his mother. She also indicates his behaviour was alarming and that he had the psychological profile of a killer.

Whilst the book is very logical and appears to make a lot of sense, there are many ‘Ripperologists’ that don’t agree. They state that she had her mind set on Sickert before she started writing the book, that Sickert wasn’t actually in London at the time of some of the murders and that the similarities in the letters could be found in almost any letter, as long as the investigator searches hard enough.

Never mind that, the book is a very interesting read and reveals several interesting information about the ‘Jack the Ripper’ case, police work at the time and the time the murders happened. Would I have read it if it wasn’t written by Patricia Cornwell? Probably not, but I would’ve missed out on a great book otherwise.



  1. Posted April 2, 2007 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Cornwell’s book is an interesting addition to the literature, but to say she left me unconvinced is to rather drastically understate the case. The book is so egocentric that in my opinion it belongs more to the mythology of Patricia Cornwell than to the mythology of the Ripper. That said, she can write a damn fine fictional mystery.

  2. Posted April 2, 2007 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I honestly have to say that the beginning of the book had me quite convinced, especially as I didn’t know much/anything apart from the basic information about the murders. However, once it became apparent that Walter Sickert wasn’t actually in the country whilst some of the killings happened and she explained it with him quickly coming back, then returning to France, I couldn’t believe it any more.

    It is just a shame that she had her heart set on Sickert prior to investigating the case and she only spent a year doing so. And comparing hundreds of letters I suppose you’re bound to find some similarities with anything.

    It was good read, but it in no way solved the case for me. And yes, she is an exellent fiction writer.

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