I, RIPPER by Stephen Hunter


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Hunter (Sniper’s Honor, 2014, etc.) sets aside long guns and MST-100 scopes for a Sheffield blade and then follows Jack the Ripper into the mean streets of Victorian London.

"I owe it all to Jack," says Jeb. I will "never, ever return to being the nonentity I had been my first 32 years." Jeb (a nom de plume) is an acerbic part-time music critic for London’s evening tabloid, Star, when he's assigned a story about prostitutes—Judys—being murdered in Whitecastle, hangout of "boardwalkers, strawers, grease removers...nostrum vendors, fortune-tellers, French polishers...[and] various classes of lurkers and peepers." London’s 1888 autumn of blood unreels through Jeb’s memoir, Jack’s purloined diary, and letters from Mairsian, a gin-addled Judy. Mixed in with fog-clamped alleyways, brick alcoves, and Jack’s gory knife work is a bit of Hunter's humor; noting a corpse’s missing organs, Jeb says, "Or he’s eaten them already, with a fine claret and field beans from the South of France." A snob, a wicked ironic wit, Jeb thinks he possesses a "higher mental function, exposure to education, mastery of culture." The supercilious hack’s name—and what’s to be made of the memoir—is a surprise when finally revealed. Jeb and his co-investigator, professor of phonetics Thomas Dare, conclude that Jack "is the consequence of empire" and find suspicious characters among British Afghan veterans. That allows Hunter, considering British generalship, to "cast a snide eye on Queen Vicky’s propensity to have a Tommy stick a bayonet in the guts of every yellow, black, or brown heathen who defied her." Add Sherlock Holmes, deductive reasoning, a classic frame-up, spot-on Cockney dialogue, erudite social observations, and pervasive anti-Semitism, and Bob’s your uncle.

Hunter solves the crime, and the Prince of Wales wasn’t the culprit.

Pub Date: May 19th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-6485-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2015


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