I, RIPPER

I,RIPPER‘ by Stephen Hunter

It’s Victorian London and poverty grips the city. But the bleak urban expanse is also in the grip of fear as a number of prostitutes turn up horrifically murdered. The authorities are clueless in their pursuit of the heinous perpetrator, and so it falls to Irish journalist, ‘Jeb’, to investigate as he reports upon a serial killer who appears to comfortably elude all efforts at capture. But is Jeb getting too close to ‘Saucy Jack’s’ grisly exploits?

‘I, RIPPER’ is an excellent novel woven around, and upon, the facts surrounding the legend of Jack the Ripper. Although much has been written and shown about the ghastly terrorizer of old London, this story manages to cast the entire matter in a new and novel (pun intended) light.

The author has managed to take Victorian prose, which can be stuffy and over-bearing, – I’m thinking Dickens, Bronte, Eliot, Hardy, the list goes on – and has comfortably diluted it. The result is an intriguing tale that has the feel of a 19th century novel, but which is written with a modern approach.

The depictions of Whitechapel and other hunting grounds of the Ripper are hauntingly effective and atmospheric. The attention to detail is impressive, being based upon extensive Ripper research. It seems that there are clubs dedicated to Jack the Ripper, yet I would think it imprudent to mention membership of such, upon a first date. Furthermore, should you inform your grandmother of your interests in this field, you may indirectly kill her.

One point worth noting about ‘I, RIPPER’, is the respectful portrayal of the victims, so often ignored in contemporary accounts. The girls are introduced in a sympathetic light, and I was awakened to their individual trials, tribulations and terrible demise.

Some scenes, where Jack goes to work on his prey, are explicit and not for the squeamish. Yet how can the true story be told without the true horror?

There is also a very clever subplot, which I won’t reveal. This twist only becomes evident much later in the book. I won’t tell you how it ends, but am betting that your best guess will be wrong.

All-in-all, ‘I,RIPPER’ is a very well written and clever novel that becomes a more powerful page-turner as the tale progresses.

On the ‘Sult Scale’, I rate this book 7 out of 10. Recommended reading.