Portrait of a Killer

Portrait of a KillerPortrait Of A Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed

Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Release Year: 2002

Here’s a quick one. Those of you who have read quite a few of my film reviews will know that I am pretty squeamish. I am not a big fan of serial killer or ‘stalk and slash’ films. I know a lot of people love this kind of stuff because they enjoyed being scared. I, on the other hand tend to watch films as an escape. There are enough examples of the nastier side of human nature in the world without having it served up to me as entertainment. Therefore, it would seem strange that I should pick up a copy of Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait Of A Killer. This book is not fiction like her series of Kay Scarpetta novels (not that I have read any). This is an investigation into the crimes of Jack The Ripper.

Cornwell uses modern forensic techniques, such as examining the DNA from letters sent by ‘Jack’ to Scotland Yard, to ascertain the identity of ‘The Ripper’. Her belief is that artist Walter Sickert was The Ripper, and I must admit that she presents a very convincing argument. I found the book completely engrossing, from the first page to the last. At the same time, I also found the graphic descriptions of The Ripper’s crimes quite unsettling, particularly when Cornwell alludes to a theory that the Ripper’s reign of terror didn’t end with the seven women in Whitechapel. The book insinuates that he went on to murdering children. But in a book of this kind, it is silly for me to complain. Of course it’s shocking and unsettling – he wasn’t called ‘Jack The Ripper’ for nothing.

If you’re interested in the Jack The Ripper case, then this book is essential reading. But whether Patricia Cornwell has closed the book on the 120 year old question, ‘who was Jack The Ripper?’, well that’s open for debate?

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