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Neither History Nor Science

Patricia Cornwell's nonfiction attempt1 to name serial killer Jack the Ripper reads more like fiction than fact. Cornwell has identified Walter Sickert, a well-known Victorian painter, as Jack the Ripper based almost solely on two observations: 1) that Sickert was a nighttime wanderer of London streets during the Ripper's spree, and 2) that Sickert painted spooky scenes reminiscent of Ripper locales and victims. Diehard fact-collecting Ripperologists will gasp at the editorialized renderings

Terry Melton

Patricia Cornwell's nonfiction attempt1 to name serial killer Jack the Ripper reads more like fiction than fact. Cornwell has identified Walter Sickert, a well-known Victorian painter, as Jack the Ripper based almost solely on two observations: 1) that Sickert was a nighttime wanderer of London streets during the Ripper's spree, and 2) that Sickert painted spooky scenes reminiscent of Ripper locales and victims.

Diehard fact-collecting Ripperologists will gasp at the editorialized renderings of Jack's crimes. Although a list of primary and secondary sources for Cornwell's distillation of history will be found in the back of the book, in-text citations are absent. What will the serious student of the massive body of Ripper documentation learn from the following quote? "This morbid means of transportation was one that Walter Sickert would have seen had he lingered in the dark and watched his victims being carried away. It must have been thrilling...

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