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Bruce Dettman's Sherlock Holmes & Jack The Ripper Reviews

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  • Bruce Dettman's Sherlock Holmes & Jack The Ripper Reviews

    Courtesy of Mr. Dettman

    By Bruce Dettman

    The crossing of paths of the world’s best-known consulting detective and the most infamous murderer of all time was surely just as inevitable as the fusion of peanut
    butter and jelly, Burns and Allen, and Washington D.C. and corruption. While it took a number of years for this cross pollination to take root and find its way into print, the
    last few years have witnessed a veritable cottage industry of accounts of Sherlock Holmes confronting the mysterious serial killer Jack the Ripper, a provocative combination plate
    served up not only in novels, short stories and articles, but in at least two motion pictures, TV adaptations, video and virtual reality games, radio shows and comic books. The
    tempting notion that Holmes existed in the same 1888 Victorian landscape as Saucy Jack is obviously too intriguing and enticing a concept to not explore and expand upon no matter
    how often it is approached and how many solutions and thematic blueprints are employed by writers eager to fuse Baker Street and Whitechapel. To this end, a legion of writers
    have put together a wide assortment of highly inventive, sometimes even ingenious scenarios, some well conceived and executed, others haphazardly pieced together in far-fetched
    and absurd storylines, which play fast and loose with both the Canon as well as the historical evidence of the Ripper atrocities.
    While I was initially aware of a number of these attempts to unite Jack and Sherlock, I really had no true inkling how many authors had attempted to incorporate the mix until I
    began to explore the subject. The works I will attempt to describe in a moment are undoubtedly not a complete history of this union -- there are, as an example, various unfamiliar
    foreign versions that have attempted to take a stab, pun intended, at this premise -- but these under discussion should at least provide an indication of some of the roads various
    authors have explored on their journey to hook up these two. Several of these are quite good, more just mediocre and a couple absolutely rubbish. But nonetheless, in digesting
    them it was fascinating to see how different minds have approached the challenge of uniting Holmes and the Ripper.
    Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street
    By W.S. Baring Gould
    In 1962, the late W.S. Baring-Gould included in Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, his ground-breaking biography of the detective, a chapter titled “Jack the Harlot Killer” which
    briefly chronicles Holmes tackling the Ripper case. There are numerous historical and factual errors in this short account and the resolution of having Athelney Jones, one of
    Scotland Yard’s finest who figured prominently in The Sign of Four, uncovered as the Ripper has not gone down well with many Sherlockians. While not the first encounter between
    Holmes and Jack, this is notable for its inclusion in a book by one of the pre-eminent Sherlockian scholars of the day. This is the only non-novel to be referenced.

    A Study in Terror
    By Ellery Queen, 1966
    This short novel was based on the film of the same name although it differs in the denouement as well as in some other areas. Its structure is odd in that it focuses on famed
    detective Ellery Queen being given a lost manuscript attributed to Dr. Watson in which he recounts Holmes’ search for the Ripper. Although author Queen (AKA Manfred Lee and
    Fredric Dannay) penned the chapters dealing with Ellery, the Holmes-Watson sections were reportedly the work of author Paul W. Fairman.
    The Last Sherlock Holmes Story
    By Michael Dibdon, 1978
    A fairly outrageous and ill-conceived venture in which the author tries to keep the reader guessing who Jack really is, Holmes or Professor Moriarty. Dibdon plays fast and lose
    with both criminal history and Canonical lore. It’s a total misfire and not recommended.

    Murder by Decree
    By Robert Weverka, 1979
    This is an adaptation of the John Hopkins script for Bob Clark’s film of the same name. With a few minor exceptions it follows the movie extremely closely. It’s the warmed-over
    royal conspiracy theory with all the key players intact although as in the movie the historical names are thinly disguised. I’m not certain why. The book is short, lean and while
    unremarkable, entertaining enough. The Ripper crimes are mostly handled with accuracy and Holmes and Watson are depicted with a degree of fidelity.

    The Mycroft Memoranda
    By Ray Walsh, 1984
    This purports to be the true story of Holmes’ confrontation with Jack the Ripper gleaned not only through a recently discovered and somewhat abbreviated and fragmented account by
    Watson but also via a series of memorandums from the desk of Holmes’ brother Mycroft which includes transcripts of interviews and conversations between the detective and his
    sibling regarding the case. This is a slighter volume than most of the others. In addition, it betrays a slightly modern voice which detracts somewhat from its tone of
    authenticity but also is redeemed to a degree by some clever plotting and the author’s Canonical knowledge. In addition to the usual players, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a fixture
    as is Billy and Sir John Roxton, the latter primarily familiar from his participation in Doyle’s The Lost World. Solution: Watson’s brother Henry is the Ripper.

    Sherlock Holmes – The Whitechapel Horrors
    By Edward Hanna, 2010
    Author Hanna opts to forgo the usual stabs in the dark as far as pegging the identity of the Ripper and leaves the door wide open without a true conclusion or solving of the
    puzzle. By the tale’s end – which includes cameos by Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Randolph Churchill plus the usual gaggle of royalist contenders – Sherlock might know the
    culprit but he’s not telling, not even Watson.
    This is better written and researched than most of these novels and Hanna provides a stronger sense of the Holmes-Watson dynamic.

    Lestrade and the Ripper
    By M.J. Trow, 1999
    This novel is told completely from the standpoint of Inspector Lestrade’s investigation into the murders. Holmes and Watson are not only peripheral to the story but for the most
    part are annoyingly depicted in a semi-derisive and nearly buffoonish manner as boorish hindrances and unwanted kibitzers in the investigation. Prince Eddy, James Stephens and
    other familiar characters from the story are brought on stage. There is certain glib and modern texture to the story that doesn’t ring true.

    Sherlock Holmes and the Apocalypse Murders
    By Barry Day, 2001
    This book takes place in 1895, a full seven years after the original Ripper murders. But a new set of crimes plaguing London sets Holmes thinking that the Ripper might be back at
    work in his own stomping grounds. The novel is entertaining and (thankfully) not long but the scenario making the grotesque and knife-weilding Jack a master criminal in the
    Moriarty mold is hard to swallow. Irene Adler, Oscar Wilde and the Canonical Wiggins are along for the uneven ride.

    Dust and Shadow
    By Lindsay Faye
    By far the best Holmes versus the Ripper novel.
    Ms Faye does a superb job in creating a strong Sherlockian pastiche with an equally robust and accurate depiction of Holmes and Watson, an engrossing storyline, commendable
    research and a
    reasonable solution which does not relay on the old chestnuts usually inherent in the Ripper case.

    Sherlock Holmes and the Two Professors
    By George Gardner, 2011
    Until the book’s conclusion a fairly straightforward account of Holmes’ pursuit of Jack. Despite the inclusion of a somewhat preposterous and unnecessary element involving Jekyll
    and Hyde, this treatment is refreshing for its restraint and reasonable denouement.

    Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes
    By Bernard Schaffer
    I would be hard-pressed to think of a more loathsome book as this. I have read my share of crime tomes, both of the fictional and true crime variety -- as well as a great deal of
    horror and supernatural volumes -- and in the process have been confronted by many unpleasant and graphic scenes. This is to be expected. But in this case, even given the horrific
    nature of the Ripper crimes, there is the acute and unsettling sensation on the part of the reader that the author takes a decidedly sick pleasure in dredging up every rancid and
    vile description and physical reference he can while telling his tale. If this weren’t enough, Holmes and Watson – not to mention other featured players such as Mycroft and
    Lestrade – are portrayed in the most unflattering of lights. Holmes is a positive monster, childish and vindictive, who takes sadistic pleasure in torturing Watson to no end,
    verbally and physically, and sending the good doctor out to find Jack with the help of Irene Adler who he ultimately sleeps with. Hopefully I will never have to discuss or even
    think of this appallingly and tasteless exercise again.

    Sherlock Holmes and The Whitechapel Vampire
    By Dean Turnbloom, 2012
    Poorly conceived and executed rip-off of Bram Stoker’s character Dracula. The lead vampire is responsible for the Ripper murders and while Holmes manages to track down and
    identify him as the harlot killer he never acknowledges the reality of the supernatural element at work here.
    This is a badly conceived and written effort, highly derivative and painfully predictable, perhaps with one possible exception, the worst of all Holmes/Ripper fusions.

    Murder in Whitechapel: The Adventure of the Post Mortem Knife
    By D.A. Joy, 2013
    This is a long but not unentertaining Holmes/Ripper novel where the author attempts to intertwine the facts of the Whitechapel crimes with several of Holmes’ other cases of the
    same period such as The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles as well as at least two unpublished but referenced cases. While this intermingling of the Ripper murders
    with recorded Canonical ones is cleverly handled – and for the record the author has also adhered for the most part to the historical facts of the actual Ripper investigation –
    the retelling of Watson’s narratives becomes at times rather ponderous and for those familiar with the original stories somewhat redundant. The guilty party is a familiar one, the
    suicidal barrister Montague James Druitt, twenty years ago a great favorite with Ripperologists but these days pretty much exonerated for the crimes.

    While I am certain, as long as imaginative minds are intrigued by the possibilities that Jack was certainly tracked by Sherlock through the foggy back alleys of Whitechapel, these
    pairings of the world’s greatest consulting detective and the most infamous of killers, will certainly continue to be explored in every venue and form available to those intrigued
    by this compelling and unprecedented matching of good and evil.
    The end, as they say, is probably not in sight.

  • #2
    I couldn't agree more with the review above on Schaffer's book. I was sent a review copy for Ripper wiki and I couldn't even get half way through the book.

    "It is far more comfortable to point a finger and declare someone a devil, than to call upon your imagination to try to understand their world."


    • #3
      I've read SPE state that the Dust & Shadow book was well does Bruce.
      Have you read it ?


      • #4
        I haven't. I've been meaning to get hold of a copy, but not got around to it.

        "It is far more comfortable to point a finger and declare someone a devil, than to call upon your imagination to try to understand their world."


        • #5
          Thanks JR...