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People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

In London in 1888, former nurse Susannah thinks that she is about to start a new, secure life with her doctor husband Thomas. The honeymoon period is short, however, as Thomas begins to stay out late returning home covered in blood and with a temper that makes his new wife fear for her life. When a woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah begins to take an interest in the newspaper reports, reading everything she can. When other women are killed in horrific circumstances, Susannah begins to realise that the deaths coincide with her husband being away from home. Could Thomas be the one they call Jack the Ripper?

I am always looking for a a different take on the Jack the Ripper story, whether it be fiction or non-fiction and so People of Abandoned Character piqued my interest immediately. What I found was that, although the premise of the book is that the protagonist suspects her husband of being the notorious killer, this is only the backdrop to what is a wonderful take on life for the poorer classes in London, in particular the plight of women who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the slums of Whitechapel.

In People of Abandoned Character, we see Susannah, a product of Whitechapel, managing to secure herself a position as a nurse, providing her with a way out of the misfortune that befell her own mother. Despite this, the life of an unmarried woman in Victorian Britain was a precarious one and so it was easy to see why her head was turned by Thomas, a doctor several years her junior and why she felt compelled to marry him. The marriage was by no means a happy one and Clare Whitfield paints a terrifying picture of what Susannah had to endure at the hands of her husband and his housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs.

The descriptions of life in Whitechapel were incredibly clear and I could visualise the desperation of the people who lived there as they tried to survive. Although, as I wrote earlier, the murders are a backdrop to the rest of the plot, I was pleased to read about the victims when they were alive, the author giving them a voice instead of just portraying them as dead prostitutes.

As the book reached its exciting conclusion, I couldn’t wait to see if Susannah’s fears would be realised. The ending was full of shocks and was particularly macabre and gruesome. You will have to read the book to see if Thomas was Jack however…

People of Abandoned Character is a fantastic debut and I shall look forward to reading more of Clare Whitfield’s work.

With thanks to Head of Zeus and Net Galley for my copy.

**PUBLICATION DAY PUSH** Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper of Whitechapel by M K Wiseman

The famous consulting detective Sherlock Holmes has been tasked by Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard to assist in the hunt for the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. Initially reluctant to join in the investigation, Holmes has to go it alone due to the recent marriage of his faithful partner, John Watson. The case takes a sudden turn, however, when the detective identifies a possible prime suspect – none other than Watson himself…

As someone who has a huge interest in the Jack the Ripper case and is also a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, this book ticked all the boxes for me! Over the years, I have read many takes on the identity of the Whitechapel murderer, and thought that everything that could have been written on this subject has already been done. I was pleased therefore, to see a new slant and was intrigued to see how the author would mix fictional characters with such a well-documented case.

This is a well-written pastiche of Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories which could almost be written by the author himself. The style and language took me straight back to the likes of A Study in Scarlet with one difference – this case is penned by Holmes himself, the usual scribe, Dr Watson being the subject of much of the detective’s musings.

We discover quite early on that Holmes has suspicions about his friend and I really like how the author keeps you waiting until near the end to discover whether these suspicions are well-founded. Like Holmes, I could not believe that Watson could possibly commit such heinous crimes, but the evidence definitely seemed to fit… You will have to read the book yourself to see the outcome!

Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper of Whitechapel is quite a short book so if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes who is looking for a quick read with an engaging plot, then this could be the book for you. Thoroughly enjoyable.

With thanks to M K Wiseman and to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources.

 

Purchase Link

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sherlock-Holmes-Ripper-Whitechapel-Wiseman-ebook/dp/B088P92XWC

US – https://www.amazon.com/Sherlock-Holmes-Ripper-Whitechapel-Wiseman-ebook/dp/B088P92XWC

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The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Robert Hume

People all over the world are familiar with the name ‘Jack the Ripper’, the infamous serial killer who, in 1888, slaughtered at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London. Interest in the case has never waned, with detectives and amateur sleuths determined to work out the identity of the man who instilled terror in the women forced to ply their trades on the streets. But what about the identities of the victims? Their names, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly are well-known, but what of their lives? Robert Hume aims to show us that these women were more than just the victims of the Whitechapel killer.

Ever since watching the TV mini-series ‘Jack the Ripper’ starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, I have had an interest in the serial killer and, as a result, have developed a penchant for Victorian crime fiction and non-fiction. Whereas a lot of real-life crime books devote much of their content to the victims, the early lives of those taken by the Whitechapel killer have been shrouded in mystery. Earlier this year, I read the brilliant The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold, and so I was pleased to discover that another author has taken on the task of bringing these unfortunate women back into the public eye.

Although there are brief discussions about the crimes and some statements from eye-witnesses, the focus is placed firmly on the women and their lives prior to their untimely deaths. This is done in a very readable way and it was easy to picture the squalid streets and the circumstances the destitute found themselves in. Robert Hume paints a very vivid picture of Whitechapel with its crime-ridden passages where the only refuge for most people was in one of the numerous public houses. It is hard to feel nothing but sympathy for these women who, often through no fault of their own, found themselves selling themselves on the street just to find a bed for the night.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the many photos that accompanied each woman’s story, whether it be images of the victims themselves or of the area in which the crimes were committed. It is good to see the women in happier times instead of just in the mortuary photos that feature in most other books about the subject.

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims  is a very readable book for anyone interested in finding out a bit more about the five canonical victims or, indeed, for anyone interested in the social history of the poor in the Victorian era.

With thanks to Pen and Sword History and Net Galley for my copy.

 

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries is the identity of the Victorian serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. Ever since the murders of 1888, there have been countless books, films and documentaries, all giving their opinions of what really happened. How much do we actually know about the victims, however? In The Five, Hallie Rubenhold aims to right this wrong by painting a picture of Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, focusing not on their death, but on the lives they led before they met their untimely end.

The crimes of Jack the Ripper have always intrigued me and I have read countless books, each author giving their own take on who the culprit actually was. Over the years, though, I have read very little about the victims and their lives before they became known throughout the world. What we do know has mainly come from witness testimonies from the time and also from the numerous contemporary news reports. It became apparent quite early on in the book that although the author has certainly used these sources of information, she has gone far beyond this, her research being thorough and highly informative.

It is always thought that the five canonical victims were murdered by a man intent on killing prostitutes, but one of the first things that Hallie Rubenhold does is make you question this. Could some of these women have been homeless, sleeping in the yards where they were found? This idea has certainly given me a new take on the crimes and made me look at these women in a completely different way.

It was fascinating reading about the early lives of the women, and wonderful to be able to build up a bigger picture of who they actually were. I found it incredibly sad to read how most of them could have had completely different lives but for the circumstances they suddenly found themselves in. Despite the murders happening over 130 years ago, I could see the parallels in the lives of too many people today, finding themselves homeless due to bereavement, addictions or unemployment. My heart really went out to these women who were trying everything they could to survive.

The Five provides a respectful, moving portrait of the women we have come to know as Jack the Ripper’s victims. If you have any interest in the Victorian era, social history or true crime, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A superb read.

 

The Gaslight Stalker by David Field

512ZJVl391LIt’s London, 1888, and fear is spreading around the East End of London due to the shadowy killer who has become known as Jack the Ripper. One of the victims is known to Esther, a young, respectable Jewish seamstress and she becomes determined to aid the police in their investigations. Ably assisted by Constable Jack Enright, the pairing soon find themselves drawn in to the underbelly of the city where serious crime is an everyday occurrence. As they edge closer to identifying the killer, Esther and Jack have underestimated just how dangerous they are…

As a fan of crime fiction set in the Victorian era, particularly anything involving Jack the Ripper, I knew that this book would be right up my street before I’d even started reading.  Although it is quite a short book, David Field has evoked sounds and smells of the slums of Whitechapel and has created a true image of the horrors that existed at that time. By merging fact with fiction, he has also added an air of authenticity to the plot and I enjoyed reading about characters such as Abberline, Reid and the prostitutes we have all become so familiar with.

Esther is a fascinating character. As a Jew living in an area where antisemitism was rife, she has managed to forge out a humble career for herself – something which would have been extremely difficult for a single woman of that era. I found it interesting how she is living in a common lodging house, yet has managed to not live the life of so many other women at that time. I was pleased when the romance between her and Jack started to develop and, as someone who is not really a fan of romantic fiction, I felt that it was written in a way that was befitting of the time and that it fit in well with the plot.

For anyone who knows anything about the Whitechapel Murders, the plot will not come as a surprise, but what will is the culprit! It was a very different take on the murders and, although the more ardent Ripperologists will scoff, it must be remembered that this is a work of fiction and the ending reflects this.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first in the Esther and Jack Enright series and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, well-written read.

With thanks to Sapere Books for my copy of The Gaslight Stalker.

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

18042000For a long time, the British public has had an interest in murder, whether it be fictional or true crime. In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley looks at this interest in great detail, exploring cases such as the Ratcliff Highway and Road Hill Murders, before moving onto how crimes were reported and how they inspired detective fiction.

This is a book that has been on my TBR pile for a while and, as it’s been a while since I’ve read anything non-fiction, I decided it was time to give it a try. After watching the accompanying television series, I was looking forward to reading Lucy Worsley’s take on some of the cases I have enjoyed reading about over the years.

If you are looking for a straightforward compendium of British crime, then this is not the book for you. It does mention some of the more well-known crimes (I was particularly pleased to see the murder of Julia Wallace included, albeit fleetingly) but the emphasis is firmly placed on the public fascination for these events. I must admit, though, that these were the sections I enjoyed the most, even though I had read about most of the cases before!

Much of the book is devoted to the growth of the crime fiction genre from the likes of Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle to the ‘golden age’ of detection with authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. There is even a modern slant where Worsley briefly discusses how these books and cases are being brought to life on television in the guise of Whitechapel, Ripper Street and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. My only concern here is that the author gives out some major spoilers and there are certainly now some books that I no longer need to read!

Lucy Worsley’s writing style is very easy to follow and makes for an enjoyable read.

The Sixth Victim by Tessa Harris

Like the rest of Whitechapel, Constance Piper is living in fear of the unknown killer that roams the streets at night – Jack the Ripper. After witnessing a stage hypnotist perform his act, however, Constance has not been feeling herself and begins to think that she has somehow acquired the powers of second sight. She is soon contacted by a lady who fears that the latest victim may be her missing sister – can Constance use her skills to unmask the killer? Just when she needs her help the most, Constance’s teacher and friend, Emily Tindall, has also gone missing. Is her disappearance linked to the man known as the Whitechapel Killer?

The Sixth Victim is a fictional tale set during 1888 when the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, was striking fear across the whole of the east end of London. I originally thought that this was going to be another take on this age-old mystery but was pleased to discover that it merely provided a backdrop for the main plot and the focus was placed on the missing women and a torso that had been found in another part of London.

I warmed to Constance very quickly – a girl who, although living amongst abject poverty, longs to better herself in order to find a way out of the slums of the east end. In The Sixth Victim, the author has managed to create a very colourful image of Whitechapel, showing a stark contrast between the lives of the unfortunate inhabitants to that of the more well-to-do who live in the grand houses and hotels of London. It was easy to imagine (even with out the aid of Constance’s second sight) the sounds and smells of the area and understand why the women of that time lived in constant fear.

I was not sure what to expect when a supernatural element was introduced to the story as this is not my favourite genre of writing, but I felt that it was written well and allowed the plot to move on at a steady pace. It also appears to show how other subsequent books in the series could take shape. Overall, the plot was a good one and I liked how the author has seamlessly merged fact with fiction.

A great read which promises to be the start of a fascinating new series.

With thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for the ARC.

Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell

51z4a1hexblPerhaps most known for his transatlantic chase to apprehend the suspected murderer Dr. Crippen and his alleged accomplice Ethel Le Neve, Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen tells the story of the detective’s humble beginnings to his retirement from the police force after almost thirty years of service. Containing original research and excerpts from Dew’s own biography, Nicholas Connell gives a fascinating insight into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminal cases.

As someone who has an interest in nineteenth and early twentieth century crime, this book begged to be bought when I saw it at a local bookshop. I had also wanted to read more about Walter Dew after reading the fictional The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey. I have read many books of this genre and find that, sometimes, there can be too much emphasis placed on quoting trial transcripts ad verbatim. This was not the case here and I found this book a very easy yet informative read.

Although much of the book is taken up, understandably, by the Crippen case, I was pleased to see that there was also a large section devoted to Dew’s involvement in the Jack the Ripper investigation. Dew’s recollections of being one of the first policemen on the scene of the Mary Jane Kelly murder were absorbing and gives readers an awareness of how horrific it must have been to witness what he did.

I was also pleased to see a little cameo role for the pathologist Bernard Spilsbury – a personal favourite of mine!

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in true crime.

The Whitechapel Secret by Martin Loughlin

51wHQ7JyzDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_When Jack the Ripper tour guide, Ian Groves, sets out one one of his regular walks around Whitechapel, little does he know that his life is about to take an unexpected turn. Initially sceptical when one of his customers tells him that she has evidence that could solve the century-long mystery, his interest is piqued  enough to start to undertake some research. When an unsuccessful attempt is made on his life and he receives news that the aforementioned customer has been found dead, he begins to realise that he has stumbled upon a conspiracy to keep the secrets of the past well hidden. What ensues is a whirlwind tour of Europe in an attempt to uncover the truth. Just who was Jack the Ripper?

It is hard to review this book without making some sort of comparison to the Robert Langdon novels of Dan Brown. There are many similarities: a male protagonist and his female accomplice, a shady secret society, a whistle-stop tour around the cities of Europe… Whereas Brown’s books can be quite lengthy, however, this is a fast-paced, ‘unputdownable’ alternative take on the age-old Jack the Ripper mystery that I read in a couple of sittings. The author has displayed good subject knowledge and his descriptions of the places Ian Groves visits seem realistic. My only criticism (a minor one!) would be that I would have liked the characters to have spent more time on each country as it often appeared rushed.

The conclusion of The Whitechapel Secret was very clever and was not what I expected. It was a fitting ending for two characters I had grown to like throughout the book and who I had willed to succeed. Although Ian’s involvement was due to his interest in Jack the Ripper, I would be happy reading any further adventures of this character!

With thanks to Net Galley and Endeavour Press for my copy of this book.

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