by Pamela West ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 25, 1987
The premise behind this so-so Jack-the-Ripper novelization--the 1888 psycho-killer was Queen Victoria's grandson Eddy!--is an old, old story, familiar to anyone with even a passing Ripper interest. So West (Madeleine) endeavors to add freshness here by falling out the proceedings with side-issues (e.g., details of the cover-up) and dubious fictional trimmings: cutesy historical cameos, Ragtime-style; the inner musings of the police inspector on the case; and his romantic involvement with one of the Ripper's victims. This detective-hero is Inspector John West, whose diary entries supply most of the novel's text. Assigned to the grisly murder/mutilation of a Whitechapel prostitute, West is skeptical about local rumors of Jewish ritual-killings--especially when other prostitute-slayings soon follow, with kinky particulars. (""What kind of man lays out farthings to close a victim's eyes and then carries her vagina away in his pocket?"") Meanwhile, West pays compassionate visits to the Elephant Man, who shares West's fond fascination with the Royal Family; there's also an interview with actor Richard Mansfield and a chance meeting with young Bernard Shaw, burgeoning critic and failed novelist. (""Maybe I should write plays,"" says Shaw.) And West, charmed by news reports of Prince Eddy's marriage plans, yearns for matrimony himself, hesitantly courting lovely, lower-class Mary Kelly. But as the detective begins to realize that the Ripper is a royal prince, protected from justice by the powers-that-be (a Masonic conspiracy), he also discovers that Mary--a woman with secrets--knows far too much for her own good about the Ripper's identity. The characterization of Inspector West is too bland to provide this workmanlike historical reconstruction with a dramatic center; the narration, despite strivings for literary flavor and philosophical rumination, remains rather flat. And the portrait of the royal Ripper himself is a sketchy dot in the background. But, compared to mindless concoctions like Yours Truly, From Hell (p. 957), this is a laudably restrained Ripper ""faction""--mildly involving, properly horrific, and (for newcomers to Ripper lore) modestly provocative.
Pub Date: Nov. 25, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1987
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