Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed

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9780399149320: Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed

Using the firsthand expertise she has gained through writing the bestselling Dr Kay Scarpetta novels, Patricia Cornwell has used the demanding methods of modern forensic investigation to re-examine the contemporaneous evidence in the Jack the Ripper murders. These include state-of-the-art DNA testing on various materials, computer enhancement of watermarks and expert examinations of hand-writing, paper, inks and other relics. She has also used her knowledge of profiling on the possible suspects, as well as consulting experts in the field. On presenting her conclusions to a very senior Metropolitan Police officer she learned that had the investigators of the time been presented with the facts she has unearthed her suspect would definitely have been arrested and would probably have faced trial.
On an ABC Prime Time documentary in December 2001 Patricia Cornwell named the killer as the artist, Walter Sickert. This book details the reasons and evidence for her compelling and credible conclusion.

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Review:

Few books receive the kind of pre-publicity that Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper--Case Closed generated. Some of it was good, some of it not so good, but all was calculated to get reader interest running at fever pitch. In fact, Patricia Cornwell's actions in trying to solve the world's most famous serial-killer mystery (just who was Jack the Ripper?) have been highly controversial, but since when has controversy undercut interest in a book? And who better than a writer whose name is synonymous with the scientific solving of crime to tackle London's legendary mass murderer?

Using the methods of her character Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell's forensic investigation has pointed the bloody finger of guilt at a figure who has long figured prominently in the Ripper files. The investigation here is an intriguing mix of the personal and the professional: as well as orchestrating a Scarpetta-like search for the identity of the Ripper, Cornwell involves several very personal connections with the task she has set herself, and this is no dry thesis. Needless to say, the more gruesome aspects of this famously grisly case give no pause to a woman who has taken us into the grimmer aspects of forensics with her unsqueamish protagonist, and we are spared no details here (but who would purchase Portrait of a Killer if they had delicate sensibilities?). The arguments here are intelligently marshalled, and laid out with the precision and attention to detail of Cornwell's novels.

In order to prove her thesis, Cornwell purchased (and made tests on) some great works of art, but the tale of how she arrived at her highly contentious conclusions is quite as fascinating as one of the Scarpetta books. You may not agree with her, but you will not put this book down. --Barry Forshaw

Review:

An excellent criminal case-study and a fine account of Victorian life. (Big Issue)

She has brought so much circumstantial evidence to bear that only a genuine posthumous confession by someone else will now be enough to clear Sickert's name. (Daily Mail)

The resultant book is absorbing ... Cornwell has written a great account of the Ripper era. (Time Out)

Fascinating. (Sunday Express)

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