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Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed
Portrait of a Killer Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Between August and November 1888, at least seven women were murdered in London's Whitechapel area. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear in the East End for months, and gave rise to the sobriquet that was to become shorthand for a serial killer -- Jack the Ripper. — For over a hundred years the murders have remained among ...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780425192733
ISBN-10: 0425192733
Publication Date: 11/2003
Pages: 384
Rating:
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 345

3.4 stars, based on 345 ratings
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
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Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
I commend Patricia Cornwell for the effort she put into this book, for the research she funded from her own pocket, and for the new forensic testing she performed on the Ripper letters. She wrote a very good book and for anyone who is fascinated by the enduring mystery that is Jack the Ripper, this is one more book to enjoy.

However, the book gave me the impression that Cornwell got the cart before the horse. Instead of looking at the facts objectively and formulating a conclusion, she started out with her conclusion (that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper) and ever so gently bent her research to support that conclusion. She made a lot of assumptions, and failed to take seriously the fact that Sickert was out of the country during the time of the Ripper murders. It is true that Sickert was involved, that he did write a lot of Ripper letters, and that he depicted the murders in his art, but those things alone do not make him the killer.

For a more factual and objective look at all things Ripper, including a list of the most popular suspects, I recommend Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Facts. It reads like a history book but is just what it claims to be, a book of pretty dry and unbiased facts. Begg suspects that the killer is a man named Kosminski, but as always, it is up to the reader to decide for themselves.

In all, Cornwell's book is good. It makes you think. It paints an interesting portrait of possibilities. But it is also not quite the 'case closed' argument that it claims to be, in my opinion at least. It's still a great read, and for that I still recommend it.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 86 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
I've read a majority or Patricia Cornwell's novels - loved some, liked some, not so crazy about some - so I was interested to see how she would address this case with her background. I was not disappointed. This book is well-written, and she uses her forensic and criminal justice knowledge, storytelling skills and talent for research very well. It is written in a methodical and suspenseful way and I was hard-pressed to put it down.

Another reviewer mentioned something similar to this: By the end of this book, the author has me 100% totally convinced that she has indeed solved this infamous mystery. But I later realized that perhaps it was her ability to tell a tale, and perhaps her ability to have the clues point in the direction she wanted them to that made this story so convincable. You WANT to believe she's right, she did such a great job with this book. But a year after it came out I happened across a documentary that convinced me this suspect was NOT Jack The Ripper...

So who knows who's right and who's wrong...I don't think we will ever truly know, but if you're intrigued by this mystery as I always have been, I highly recommend this book. It's a different take, contains a lot of information and was just plain interesting to read.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 80 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I found the book to be interesting at first, but I lost interest about half-way through. I think it makes an excellent case for Sickert possibly writing some of the Ripper letters, but that is all. I didn't find any of the other evidence to be strong enough for me to conclude that he was definitely the killer.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I commend Patricia Cornwell for the effort she put into this book, for the research she funded from her own pocket, and for the new forensic testing she performed on the Ripper letters. She wrote a very good book and for anyone who is fascinated by the enduring mystery that is Jack the Ripper, this is one more book to enjoy.

However, the book gave me the impression that Cornwell got the cart before the horse. Instead of looking at the facts objectively and formulating a conclusion, she started out with her conclusion (that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper) and ever so gently bent her research to support that conclusion. She made a lot of assumptions, and failed to take seriously the fact that Sickert was out of the country during the time of the Ripper murders. It is true that Sickert was involved, that he did write a lot of Ripper letters, and that he depicted the murders in his art, but those things alone do not make him the killer.

For a more factual and objective look at all things Ripper, including a list of the most popular suspects, I recommend Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Facts. It reads like a history book but is just what it claims to be, a book of pretty dry and unbiased facts. Begg suspects that the killer is a man named Kosminski, but as always, it is up to the reader to decide for themselves.

In all, Cornwell's book is good. It makes you think. It paints an interesting portrait of possibilities. But it is also not quite the 'case closed' argument that it claims to be, in my opinion at least. It's still a great read, and for that I still recommend it.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 67 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Fabulous book that deomstrates how modern technology can solve cold cases. Well written and riveting story.
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reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on
This was possibly one of the worst books I have ever read. Patricia Cornwell should be ashamed of herself for writing this book.

I am not a huge Cornwell fan; I read her book on the Body Farm and found it to be poorly written but not terrible.

This book, on the other hand was a complete disaster. Her writing style is insane. It is almost as if the publisher printed her first draft. She CANNOT keep a train of thought going for more than a page and often jumps to completely unrelated story lines mid-paragraph. This was obviously annoying, but the worst and most irritating part of this book was complete lack of evidence or supporting information.

For someone who is "friends" with Bill Bass, NONE of his pragmatic thinking or unbiased presentation of facts has rubbed off on her at all. She uses Sickert's paintings as proof that he was violent and deranged much the same way the Nazi's used avant-garde art to prove that modern artists were degenerates. Shame on Patricia Cornwell, shame. She makes unsubstantiated accusations throughout the book, uses pieces of 'evidence' that are not even attributed to Sickert OR Jack the Ripper to 'prove' that Sickert was Jack the Ripper. She also used extremely misleading language throughout, but especially in regards to her forensic evidence. The whole book is a sad joke. Her assumptions range from baseless to irritating to inflammatory. Patricia Cornwell should leave the real-life detective work to professionals. All she did with this book was embarrass herself.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 33 more book reviews
Disappointing if you are looking for a book full of adventure. This book is written like a college dissertation on Jack the Ripper and presents no competing views or theories of the murders.
reviewed Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed on + 37 more book reviews
A case study in obsession. Cornwell apparently spent major amounts of her own money in developing this theory, and in the end, all the evidence boils down to a dislike of the suspect and of his art, and smoke and mirrors. Could she be right? Could this new suspect REALLY be the answer to the riddle of Jack The Ripper? Sure, I suppose it's possible, but until the development of a DNA profile linking him to, at a minimum, the Ripper letters, hang on to your objectivity. We truly seem to be no closer to proving the identity of the Ripper than Scotland Yard was 110 years ago.


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