The Complete History of Jack the Ripper
Definitive. Sugden's revisiting and use of primary sources brings the "Autumn of Terror" to life like few other books on the subject. Told as a narrative, the book follows the story as it unfolded - from the first (non canonical) murder of Martha Tabram to the (probably unconnected) murder of Frances Coles.
Along the way, he introduces us to the teeming slums and the people who lived precariously among them - along with the outmatched detectives who tried to track the murderer through them.
Sugden is careful to present the many nuances of the case. He is unafraid to draw the reader's attention to how eye witness reports varied according to who they were told and when. Most Ripperologists fall into the trap of only presenting the evidence that supports their favoured theory as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, but Sugden shows us every aspect of the case.
Of course, this makes for a long book, dense with detail. For the casual reader, the sheer volume of information could be a little overwhelming. Against that, Sugden's prose style is compelling for the reader who actually demands that level of detail.
Ultimately, Sugden concludes with a thorough examination of Inspector Abberline's belief that Jack the Ripper was Severin Klosowski (a.k.a. George Chapman). While Abberline's belief deserves respect, and Sugden works hard to paint Klosowski as a suspect it is as ultimately unsatisfying as most theories.
Due to the skilful way in which Sugden presents the story up to that point, this is in no way infuriating and at no point do you feel that Sugden is attempting to bend facts to fit the theory.
Quite simply, an indispensable book.
Paul Carpenter: 2014-09-06