REVIEW OF PATRICIA CORNWELL'S
PORTRAIT OF A KILLER: JACK THE RIPPER, CASE CLOSED
By Jodie Ball
In PORTRAIT OF A KILLER, JACK THE RIPPER CASE CLOSED, Patricia Cornwell sets out to prove that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper by applying modern forensic techniques and by reviewing actual case evidence and testimony. PORTRAIT isn't like any other book about Jack the Ripper. Other than fictional accounts of the legendary killer, none of the other books purport to have solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was. Some provide an educated guess, but they don't conclusively point the finger at anyone.
Cornwell spent a fair amount of time conducting research, which is evident in the amount of information provided to readers of PORTRAIT OF A KILLER. Though I do agree that Sickert certainly should have been a suspect, most of the evidence she provides is simply conjecture since most of the autopsy information has been destroyed or misplaced. Since Cornwell's background is in forensic medicine, I would have liked to read more discussion about the forensic aspects of the cases. Unfortunately, many of the autopsy reports of that time period simply weren't kept. What little was left of the reports written about each of the murders, Cornwell discusses knowledgeably.
PORTRAIT OF A KILLER: JACK THE RIPPER, CASE CLOSED by Patricia Cornwell is an intriguing book and certainly makes the reader think. Fiction writers writing about Jack the Ripper will find PORTRAIT instructive, especially in the descriptions of the murder scenes and in the habits and the lives of the victims. I also believe writers interested in the late1800 and early 1900 investigative techniques in Scotland Yard will also find the book instructive.