In late summer, 1888, there is a monster on the loose. History knows him as Jack the Ripper. Stephen Hunter’s new novel examines the events of the time and presents the story in a unique way. You get the Ripper’s point of view in the form of diary entries, and you also have the protagonist’s viewpoint as written as his memoirs from later in life.
Jack the Ripper became infamous as the murderer of 5 women in the Whitechapel district of London. To this day, no one really knows who he actually was. In the novel, the protagonist, Jeb, a music critic turned crime reporter covering the murder of the first victim for one of the newspapers of the time is on a mission to figure out who the Ripper is and bring him to justice.
The story follows Jack and Jeb from the beginning of the murders, all the way through to the completely fictional ending where Jeb figures out who the Ripper really is and confronts him.
If one is a fan of the true crime type of story, then I, Ripper fits the bill nicely. Author Hunter takes the actual tale of Jack the Ripper, throws his own unique spin on to the actual story, and instead of the cliffhanger of not knowing who the Ripper really was, gives you a who, and even better yet, an actual ending other than the usual “His identity is yet unknown.” This novel is a refreshing fictional take on the case.
The ending is by far the best part of the novel. The plot twists at the end were very well done, leaving the reader with a fairly satisfied feeling about the whole story.
With that being said, the story is not at all a quick read. There were several times where the reviewer felt the need to take a break from the story, because parts of the story – namely Jeb’s – are very long winded and dry. If the novel had been completely from the Ripper’s point of view, it would have went a lot faster, but would have been missing a lot of story that was needed from Jeb.
Hunter’s ability to write really shines in this novel, juxtaposing the Ripper’s point of view with that of Jeb’s. Together, it completes a compelling story rich in thrills, chills, and intrigue. All in all, there is not a whole lot to dislike about this novel.
As far as the characters go, one will find Jack to be completely unlikeable, after all, he is a serial killer who does some pretty disgusting things and seems to completely revel in them. Jeb worked as the tenacious reporter who was determined to get to the bottom of the story, but the way he was written felt a little boring and pretentious, almost.
A word of caution should be given to this novel, however. Jack’s exploits are covered in graphic detail. The author was not shy at all about being descriptive when it came to what Jack did to his victims, which, given the subject matter, is understood, but, some might find that to be a negative to an otherwise good book.
In addition to serving as an associate librarian with the Howard County Library, Nicole Tracy has years of experience in literary fields. She writes an exclusive weekly column for The Nashville News.