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Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper Case Closed Mass Market Paperback – October 28, 2003

2.6 out of 5 stars 722 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jack the Ripper was renowned artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) according to Cornwell, in case anyone hasn't yet heard. The evidence Cornwell accumulates toward that conclusion in this brilliant, personal, gripping book is very strong, and will persuade many. In May 2001, Cornwell took a tour of Scotland Yard that interested her in the Ripper case, and in Sickert as a suspect. A look at Sickert's "violent" paintings sealed her interest, and she became determined to apply, for the first time ever, modern investigatory and forensic techniques to the crimes that horrified London more than 100 years ago. The book's narrative is complex, as Cornwell details her emotional involvement in the case; re-creates life in Victorian times, particularly in the late 1880s, and especially the cruel existence of the London poor; offers expertly observed scenarios of how, based on the evidence, the killings occurred and the subsequent investigations were conducted; explains what was found by the team of experts she hired; and gives a psycho-biography of Sickert. The book is filled with newsworthy revelations, including the successful use of DNA analysis to establish a link between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two envelopes used by Sickert. There are also powerful comparisons made between Sickert's drawing style and that of the Ripper; between words and turns of phrases used by both men; and much other circumstantial evidence. Also newsworthy is Cornwell's conclusion that Sickert continued to kill long after the Ripper supposedly lay down his blade, reaping dozens of victims over his long life. Compassionate, intense, superbly argued, fluidly written and impossible to put down, this is the finest and most important true-crime book to date of the 21st century. Main selection of the BOMC, Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Can truth be stranger than Cornwell's fiction? Here, the best-selling novelist claims to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (October 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425192733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425192733
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (722 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 1990, Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, while working at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. An auspicious debut, it went on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d'Aventure prize - the first book ever to claim all these distinctions in a single year.

Today, Cornwell's novels and now iconic characters, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, her niece Lucy and fellow investigator Pete Marino, are known all over the world. Fox 2000 is actively developing a feature film about Kay Scarpetta. Beyond the Scarpetta series, Patricia has written a definitive account of Jack the Ripper's identity, cookbooks, a children's book, a biography of Ruth Graham, and two other fiction series based on the characters Win Garano and Andy Brazil.

Cornwell was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston.

Visit the author's website at: www.patriciacornwell.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is without a doubt the worst book on Jack the Ripper that I have ever had the misfortune ro read. And, masochist that I am, I struggled through 342 pages, hoping to find some redeeming quality--some sort of smoking gun...er...bloody knife, that is, that could give this work some grounds for its pretentious "Case Closed" title.
Why was it so bad? Because the way Pat Cornwell jumps to conclusions about gave me whiplash. Her favorite words, apparently, are 'could' and 'perhaps'. As in, (paraphrasing), "He could have worn disguises." Nothing to back it up, mind you, just a 'could have'. And that 'could have' becomes gospel truth for the rest of the book. He could have done this, he could have done that. Perhaps he did this, perhaps he did that.
Where is the evidence? Where is objectivity?
Granted, evidence is scarce in the Ripper case, and so much has been poured and sifted through many, many times before. But as I read this book, I got the strong, overriding impression, that Cornwell found her suspect first--and *then* built a case to fit, rather than examining the case to find a suspect. And all of the gaps of logic, leaps of faith, could have's, and perhaps's fill in the gaps, otherwise she wouldn't have had a book.
The much hyped DNA evidence she depends on basically relies on letters that flooded London in those days, both to police and newspapers and others. The vast majority are thought now, and were thought then to be hoaxes. Many different handwritings, pieces of stationary, locations the letters were sent from.
Pat believes that all, or nearly all of them, are real, and all of them come from her favored suspect, Walter Sickert. Apparently Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
Patricia Cornwell's investigation into whether British painter Walker Sickert was in fact also infamous murderer Jack the Ripper has been fascinating to follow in the media over the last year. As the essence of any good investigation is clear, accurate perception, precision, and a rigorous search for the facts and truth by objective methods, it is by these standards that Cornwell's book must be considered.

The author has accumulated an enormous amount of circumstantial evidence against Sickert, but 'Portrait of a Killer' is amateurishly written, sloppily executed, and poorly edited.

For a famous crime writer, Cornwell has produced a weak book unlikely to stand up to scrutiny or survive the brunt of attacks by Ripperologists the world over, written as it has been for the uncritical light reader.

Every facet of 'Portrait of a Killer' seems rushed, as though Cornwell wrote with little consideration for structure and then submitted the manuscript without rereading, rewriting, or thinking it through as a whole. The awkward title alone suggests Cornwell's hesitations: 'Portrait of a Killer / Jack The Ripper / Case Closed.' Why not 'Walter Sickert: Portrait of a Killer,' or 'Walter Sickert: Jack The Ripper?' Why the reservation about damning her subject in the title, as she does so heartily in the text?

For Cornwell damns Sickert before she's made her case, and from the first page.

She immediately refers to Sickert as a killer as if this were an objective fact, and as a 'psychopath,' a phrase she bandies about loosely and without proper definition throughout the book.

By contemptuously referring to his rented East End studios as 'ratholes' upon their first mention, Cornwell makes her biases entirely clear.
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Format: Hardcover
It's almost funny, Patricia Cornwell has conned a lot of critics and her pubisher - but the reviewing public here at Amazon sees right through the garbage. Cornwell's theory about poor old Walter Sickert is so full of holes that I frequently found myself chuckling as I read.

Only allowed a thousand words here so I can't tear this book apart line by line. But here's a fun example: Cornwell points out that Jack the Ripper often used horse racing slang in his letters, even gave the cops tips on the ponies! The tie-in to Sickert is clear she says - the Ripper once referred to "Bangor Street" in a letter and there is no Bangor Street in London. But don't go away now, there is a city called Bangor in Wales which has a racecourse! Stay with old Patty now, here's the clincher, and I quote: "While I have no evidence that Sickert bet on race horses, I don't have any fact to say he didn't".
CASE CLOSED, as the cover says. Hey, while I have no evidence that Patricia Cornwell wears men's size 12 Bruno Magli shoes, I have no proof that she doesn't either - call Mark Furman.

It only gets better. Cornwell finds a guest book at some obscure coastal England bed and breakfast. The guest register was defiled and doodled in by a guest Cornwell assumes to be the Ripper many years after the Ripper murders. She points out that poor old Sickert was never seen there (he was semi-famous), and never registered there. But she's happy to spend a chapter assuming that he registered there under an alias, and disguised, decades after the Ripper murders because it was the kind of place he would have liked. CASE CLOSED!

You want evidence of a crime, folks, it's on page 184. Old Patricia found evidence that she thought might point to a London cop, not Sickert.
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