'The clearest, most accurate, and most up-to-date account of the Ripper murders, by one of Britain's greatest and most respected experts on the "autumn of terror" in Victorian London.'
William D. Rubenstein, Professor of Modern History, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
England in the 1880s was a society in transition, shedding the skin of Victorianism and moving towards a more modern age. Promiscuity, moral decline, prostitution, unemployment, poverty, police inefficiency… all these things combined to create a feeling of uncertainty and fear.
The East End of London became the focus of that fear. Here lived the uneducated, poverty-ridden and morally destitute masses. When Jack the Ripper walked onto the streets of the East End he came to represent everything that was wrong with the area and with society as a whole. He was fear in a human form, an unknown lurker in the shadows who could cross boundaries and kill.
Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History is not yet another attempt to identify the culprit. Instead, the book sets the murders in their historical context, examining in depth what East London was like in 1888, how it came to be that way, and how events led to one of the most infamous and grisly episodes of the Victorian era.
After 125 years, and dozens of books about the notorious Ripper murders, it's a challenge to come up with a new angle, but experts Begg and Bennett, who previously collaborated on Jack the Ripper: CSI: Whitechapel, successful tread new ground in this thought-provoking book. They focus on women murdered around the time of the so-called Autumn of Terror of 1888 who are generally not considered to be actual Ripper victims. The authors note that most serial killers often begin with crimes lacking all the signature element of their patterns, and argue it's a mistake to exonerate Jack the Ripper off-hand, just because the mutilations differed. Refreshingly, they don't try to advance a new suspect, on the basis of evidence that could only be circumstantial. Instead, they do a convincing job of debunking myths, such as the existence of an extortionate street gang at the time called the High Rips. More importantly, they demonstrate that, whatever the Scotland Yarders of the day wrote, there is no definitive answer as to how many women the sadistic Whitechapel murderer slaughtered.