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March 2023

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  • March 2023

    Deconstructing Jack – The Secret History of the Whitechapel Murders – Simon Daryl Wood

    This is quite an interesting and stimulating book. It claims to review a lot of the evidence, including exposing lies, propaganda etc, and result in those interested in the case to have a better understanding. To an extent, that’s a bold aim, whilst also being something many books aspire to be.

    I found the whole book to be stimulating and interesting. As ever, for this reader it is always great to read a book that is slightly more than an introduction to the case, one that does assume a certain level of prior knowledge from the reader, and therefore shines light on new information, or shares new interpretations of old information. This book certainly does both of these. It is a good, nice and large book. There is a lot of information, and clearly a lot of research and effort has gone into the work. There is a lot of detail included, and a lot of notes, however I felt the lack of a bibliography did detract from it somewhat.

    Some particular snippets;
    The notion of a police gang being responsible for the murder of emma smith was fascinating, and something I had never even considered, but is described in an extremely plausible way by the author.
    There is a section/chapter late on in the book that engages in a very detailed dissection in contrasting the witnesses schwartz and lawende that is very illuminating.
    I was really surprised in some places of the book that it appears to give some credence to Duttons “chronicles of crime”. I didn’t actually think there was anyone out there under the impression they are more than a figment of someones imagination. I can’t recall anyone other than McCormick saying they’d actually seen these items?
    The author discusses a really interesting issue around other correspondence that Lusk was receiving immediately prior to the from hell letter. I found this absolutely fascinating, and most intriguing.

    The main crux of the book is a pretty forensic examination of public statements made by a number of the most prominent officials of the time (Anderson, McNaughton etc), combined with a lot of reference to various newspaper sources. What s expertly highlighted, is the level of confusion, contradiction and obfuscation in so many of the statements. The book highlights how the contrary/inconsistent nature of the pronouncements does, over time, invalidate, or weaken the strength of the assertions of these individuals. Specifically, Anderson does not come out well of such an investigation. In example, I was fascinated by the contrasting of the statements of the identity of the ripper being a definite ascertained fact, compared with the nature of the ongoing ripper investigations, especially relating to the 1889-1891 murders (& later!)

    However I did start to be confused by the Jack the myth assertion that began cropping up. I get that the high level officials tied themselves in knots, and probably also had 1 eye on their legacy, but the suggestion that the police force as a whole were involved in deliberately misleading the press and public, and fed false information, thus enabling/creating this myth seems a bit far fetched. Such an idea would require the collusion of far too many people imo.

    What is certain, is a number of women were murdered. The debate is ongoing as to how many were by 1 hand.

    Which resulted in me having a certain confusion as to the purpose of the book. If the argument is we don’t know who JtR is, and contemporaneous investigators didn’t know, or were confused, ten the book highlights this well, and it is carried out with aplomb. However the book doesn’t seem (imo) to make any particular argument as to who may have been responsible. Granted the author says he isn’t trying to ID JtR, but the book is even looser and as a result all the book highlights is how confusing the existing documents/testimony is. This is not news to anyone.

    I have seen it mentioned elsewhere that this book suggests each victim was killed by someone different. I didn’t see that argument made. The book made e decent case for Stride not being a JtR victim, and there being differences to the MO (although this could have been explored more fully with added contrasts as to the wounds/knife being probably different), and the book also strongly suggests emma smith was at a different hand (see above), but no real case or opinion is given as to whether any of tabram, Nichols, Chapman, Eddowes, Kelly or any of the others were part of a series, or whether they were isolated events.

    So other than saying “statements made by people are inconsistent”, I am not sure what the purpose is?

    It’s a good book, with a lot of detail, and I enjoyed going through the case with it.

  • #2
    Hi LJ,

    Thank you for your review, which I found very helpful. More evidence has come to light, and I am currently in the midst of completing a third edition. I will also be taking the time to address some of your very astute observations.

    Thank you again.




    • #3
      An excellent book. I particularly liked the Leather Apron/John Pizer analysis.

      FYI - Leather Apron was also covered by Simon in two articles for Ripperologist: "One Lone Maniac Too Many" part 1 (mostly about LA) and part 2 (mostly Hughes-Hallett/Edward Stanley).

      --Ripperologist 132 (June 2013) and 133 (August 2013).


      • #4
        LJ’s review makes me want to read Simon’s book.