The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper- Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund
I cannot even tell you how long I've had this book sitting on my bookshelves. I think my brother may have bought it for me as a Christmas present when I was with in my first year of uni- 7 years ago. All this time it's shuffled around, from house to house, and sat on the bookshelves unread until finally, this month, its time came! Rich and I had been watching a truly fascinating documentary about a new Jack the Ripper suspect, which inspired me to read up more on the case.
Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer I was ever interested in (There's a conversation starter for your next dinner party. You're welcome!) but I can't even remember when that was. As an 8 year old, I was obsessed with Terry Deary's Vile Victorians in the Horrible Histories series, which mentioned my murderous mate Jack, but I already knew about the Ripper by that point. I was clearly just a very morbid child! As I grew up, I acquired a general understanding of the murders and, in fact, one of the first dates Rich took me on was to the Jack the Ripper exhibition at the Docklands Museum. However, I didn't really have the depth of knowledge that I wanted, so this heffa of a book was just what I needed!
The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper is edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund, who open with a very detailed chronology of the murders. They discuss other victims outside the canonical five- Martha Tabram is generally accepted as an early Ripper victim these days- and create a very clear picture of Whitechapel at the time of the crimes. After this in depth study, which draws on several sources of original information, the majority of the book is taken up with various essays from Ripperologists, novelists and journalists who feel they have uncovered the identitiy of the killer. By including so many contradictory and varied arguments, I felt as though I was left with a very broad, balanced understanding of the case and possible suspects.
One area where I felt the book lacked, however, was the complete omission of any images or reproduction of sources. It would have been a huge benefit to have compared, say, the infamous Dear Boss letters with the will of James Maybrick, who is one, now widely discredited, suspect since so much is made of the inconsistencies in handwriting. This would have provided an extra understanding of the case that is difficult to convey through words alone.
Despite this, I found this book to be a fantastic starting point as I move towards developing my understanding further. If nothing else, the extensive bibliography has given me a great reading list to tackle!
Buy The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper here
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