by Paul Begg & John Bennett
(Yale University Press, $35)
Reviewed by Larry Cox
More than 100 non-fiction books have been written about Jack the Ripper and a series of murders that occurred during the late summer and fall of 1888 in London. Most Ripperologists, a term coined to describe the study of the case by both professionals and amateurs, agree that Jack the Ripper murdered at least five women: Mary Ann Nichols, Anne Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.
Shortly after these five murders occurred, police surgeon Thomas Bond was asked if he thought the murders were the work of one man. He did, and based his opinion on the fact that the first four victims had had their throats cut from left to right and in the same basic circumstances. The exception was Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed not on the street but in her home, and in such a frenzy that it was impossible to determine in what direction the fatal cut was made.
Although most books have focused on these five women, a fascinating new work by Paul Begg and John Bennett suggests there might have been others … the Ripper’s “forgotten victims.”
Begg is a world authority on Jack the Ripper and has written extensively about the case, including “Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History” and a major contributor to “Jack the Ripper: A to Z.” Bennett, in addition to his writing about the case, also is known for his widely acclaimed walking tours of Whitechapel that include many of the Ripper murder sites.
The authors focus on about a dozen female victims who were attacked during this same bloody period. They consider various suspects and theories, revealing the lengths to which some have gone to unmask Jack the Ripper. This is an important book and explores the intriguing question of why these Victorian-era murders continue to generate interest and titillation after more than 125 years.