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Aoife

Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages
Krieg und Frieden
Michael Grusemann, Leo Tolstoy
Progress: 579/1024 pages
Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman - John   Morris

Beware: this is goint to be gory. You would expect that in books about the Ripper anyway but I do go in some details about mutilations and sexual assault. Nothing too graphic but I thought I warn just in case.

This was really bad and insulting on a surprising number of levels. The author is convinced Lizzie Williams committed the Ripper-murders. According to him she was desperate because her marriage remained childless and when she found out that her husband was having an affair with Mary Kelly (no there is no proof for that) she panicked because Mary was still young enough to bear children and don't we all know the thousands of stories about Victorian men who left their wives for random prostitutes?
Neither do I.
Now some of you might now also wonder why she committed five murders if she was just after Mary Kelly but the author has a perfectly reasonable explanation for that, too: Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman were just practise. After all killing and mutilating is hard work and you need to make sure that you can really do it even if you already have some knowledge about anatomy like Lizzie. And Lizzie knew about anatomy because her husband was a surgeon and she always watched him during operation...you know just like watching 8 seasons of Criminal Minds have made me a proper profiler.
That's two murders explained, Liz Stride was killed because Williams had asked her about the whereabouts of Mary Kelly and she wanted to stop her from telling the police about it. It was just unfortunate that Stride directed her to the wrong Mary Kelly for Catherine Eddowes also went under that name (rejoice! That is a proper fact!). Once she learned that she killed the wrong women she again asked after Mary Kelly but no longer felt the need to kill everybody she asked because who would remember a woman asking after a prostitute?

We have more fun with contradictions. One of the many mysteries surrounding the Ripper-murders was that one of Kelly's neighbours swore that she saw her the morning after she had been murdered and even talked to her. The author claims that this must have been Williams leaving the scene after the murder and so far that actually makes sense but first he writes that if she replied in a Welsh accent (Kelly was born in Ireland but grew up in Wales so she had a Welsh accent) and that Lizzie usually spoke with an English accent but “could also speak with a Welsh accent she required.” That makes sense...and implied that Williams did it on purpose because speaking with an accent that is not the one you usually use is not something you randomly do. However a few pages later he claims that Lizzie only responded to the call 'Mary' of the neighbour because Mary was one of her given names and some family-members still called her so...now that suggests that she just slipped and replied because she was somewhere else with her thoughts in which case she would have replied with the accent she used everyday.

The author is also rather desperate to convince that readers that it is totally obvious that the Ripper must have been a woman because the victims weren't sexually assaulted and a man would have done this. He repeats this over and over in almost every third chapter (he is rather fond of repeating things, I guess if you cut out all the repetitions you'd loose at least a third of the book).
It's just unfortunate that


While some serial killers achieve sexual satisfaction through rimary mechanisms (e.g.sexual assault), others resort to secondary mechanisms related to violence. It is likely that Jack the Ripper utilized the violence of stabbing and slashing his victims with a knife as methods for exerting his power and control over the victim. He used a knife to penetrate the victim, and satisfied himself through the eroticized power of violence, the domination of the victim, and the mutilation and bleeding of the victim, rather than sexual intercourse.

Source

See? I heard that on Criminal Minds but still googled it to make sure. This is called 'research' and is something the author should have done more of.
Interestingly he mentions having read Patricia Cornwall's book on the Ripper and that he wasn't convinced by it (probably the only thing we have in common). Cornwall's theory is completely built around the fact that her favourite suspect had a deformed penis, couldn't have sex and so went for the 'secondary mechanisms'. So even if he dismisses her, he should at least have heard of the possibility of lust-murders that do not involve sexual assault.

Almost as much time as trying to convince the reader of that he spends trying to convince them that yes, women like poisoning but it is not completely impossible that they use knives to kill. Now while that is true he uses the worst possible examples to make his point: he cites several cases of women who attacked pregnant women, cut open their womb and stole the babies...now while I'm not an expert I know that poisoning (as well as almost any other method) is a very bad idea if you want the baby alive. These people had no other choice than to use a knife. The only other example he cites is about two sisters who killed their step-father after he had sexually assaulted one of them which is again a completely different context to these murders out of jealousy as Lizzie is supposed to have committed.

Oh and there is something else he likes talking about: he repeats the exact circumstances that supposedly lead Lizzy to killing (her infertility, her husband's infidelity, other family issues) several times, explaining everytime that only this could have lead a middle-class woman like Lizzie to murder people. The first time I thought it was just a really sloppy formulated sentence (it wouldn't be the only one...if this thing had an editor I hope he goes to editor-hell where he is read excerpts from this book 24 hours a day) but he repeats this over and over again. Apparently only working-class people commit murders on a regular basis, the middle-and upper classes would never do that unless the circumstances force them to. It's not in their nature.

Of course he's also selective with mentioning facts. He only talks about the first letter the police recieved (the one that was signed with 'Yours truly Jack the Ripper') and says this was probably a journalist who wanted to sell more papers, a theory that is rather popular. However he neither mentiones the Saucy Jack postcard (that announced the Double Event) nor the package with the kidney that Lusk received (which by many is believed really to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes) let alone any reasons why he dismisses them.