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November 2019

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  • November 2019

    The Man who Hunted Jack the Ripper - Nicholas Connell & Stewart P Evans

    Didn't take me too long to head back to the ripper bookshelf.
    I've mentally started this review a couple of times. In a way, I'd like to start by suggesting this is a lovely little book. It's relatively short (188 or so pages), it is easy to carry and hold. And it is rather nicely put together - a hardback with the inner having a lovely, and detailed line drawing of an LVP street scene, horse and carriage and all.

    Yet I keep objecting to the word "little" above. This is a sturdy, strong, almost weighty book in its own way.

    So the book covers the life and times of Edmund Reid.
    A chapter covers Reids pre- law enforcement life. Two further lead us through his career up the the WM, with one specifically laying the ground, covering 1888 itself, up to Tabram. We then have a series of sections dealing most factually with the WMs directly, inter dispersed with commentary specific to Reids various involvement, as well as other responsibilities, including towards the coroners inquests. In an engaging way, this is done through to the Coles murder, which brings us broadly to the halfway point of the book. Included as well is a section on the Pinchin Street torso (got to be honest, I don't recall any other book giving equal promenance to the PST, but in this case it is central to the books purpose, and it gave me cause to ponder on the social impact of the WMs). And it is all solid stuff. The authors present a well considered opinion on how Fairy Fay became something in circulation, as well as a suggestion as to a likely source of Morganstone with relation to MJK (i'm not as detailed in my knowledge as many here, so I do not know if their theory has been debunked, or validated).

    Part 2 of the book was a bit intriguing for me. Reids post WM career seems to me to be dealt with very briefly indeed, as does the cause of his retirement. There's a fair level of discussion of Reids opinions on who other prominent members of law enforcement proposed as potential Jacks, and Reids dismissiveness of much of their commentary is very humorous! His style shows character. His reminisces gave me much to consider when reflecting on the testimony, and especially the recollections of others. Broadly, Reids main recollections/conclusions seemed sound, but some details he recollected were erroneous. It is also clear Reid held little truck with the view there were 5 victims, and 5 victims only, though arguably Reid may have been looking at the wider series of Whitechapel Murders, as per the original files and their contents.

    A couple of chapters deal with Andersons polish jew suspect, and the furore around that. It made interesting reading, and the authors highlight some flexibilities in how Anderson presented his case. This made me want to re-read John Malcolms book which I reviewed a year ago I notice! Again, much to think about here.

    There's finally a few chapters regarding Reids eccentricities in old age and retirement, which suggests more of the character mentioned above.

    It is probably being greedy, as there is so much in this book, and it is so efficiently spread, but I was strongly left wanting more. Many chapters are a few pages long, so I assume that there wasn't much on record regarding Reids early life before joinng the police, hence only one short chapter. His notoriety, eccentricity, and willingness to write to publications, or be interviewed creates the potential for 4/5 chapters to be covered by his retirement. However I was surprised to find so little information on his passion for ballooning for example, or just some more nuggets regarding what made the man.

    Don't get me wrong, this is a really good book, and possibly the authors had too narrow a view of their market, focussing almost exclusively on the WM aspects (20 of 27 chapters solely to this, with asides in most of the other 7). But the good stuff contained within this (examples above) could, and possibly should have been fleshed out with a little more on the man himself, to become an excellent book. As it is, there are gems of relevant information abound, as well as a whole lot of interesting insight, with some supposition that has potential.

    Perhaps it left me wanting more because what it is, it does so well.

  • #2
    You be the man, Lem.....thanks !
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    • #3
      That was a fine review and reflects my sentiments about the book to a T.
      Best Wishes,
      Cris Malone
      "Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist."