Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed (Anglais) Broché – 5 juin 2003
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Descriptions du produit
was a carnival of wondrous things to do for as little as pennies
if one could spare a few.
The bells of Windsor’s Parish Church and St. George’s Chapel rang
throughout the day. Ships were dressed in flags, and royal salutes boomed
from cannons to celebrate the Duke of Edinburgh’s forty-fourth birthday.
The Crystal Palace offered a dazzling spectrum of special programs:
organ recitals, military band concerts, a “monster display of fireworks,”
a grand fairy ballet, ventriloquists, and “world famous minstrel performances.”
Madame Tussaud’s featured a special wax model of Frederick
II lying in state and, of course, the ever-popular Chamber of Horrors.
Other delicious horrors awaited those who could afford theater tickets
and were in the mood for a morality play or just a good old-fashioned
fright. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was playing to sold-out houses. The famous
American actor Richard Mansfield was brilliant as Jekyll and Hyde
C H A P T E R O N E
M R . N O B O D Y
at Henry Irving’s Lyceum, and the Opera Comique had its version, too,
although poorly reviewed and in the midst of a scandal because the theater
had adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel without permission.
On this bank holiday there were horse and cattle shows; special
“cheap rates” on trains; and the bazaars in Covent Garden overflowing
with Sheffield plates, gold, jewelry, used military uniforms. If one wanted
to pretend to be a soldier on this relaxed but rowdy day, he could do so
with little expense and no questions asked. Or one could impersonate a
copper by renting an authentic Metropolitan Police uniform from Angel’s
Theatrical Costumes in Camden Town, scarcely a two-mile stroll from
where the handsome Walter Richard Sickert lived.
Twenty-eight-year-old Sickert had given up his obscure acting career
for the higher calling of art. He was a painter, an etcher, a student of
James McNeill Whistler, and a disciple of Edgar Degas. Young Sickert
was himself a work of art: slender, with a strong upper body from swimming,
a perfectly angled nose and jaw, thick wavy blond hair, and blue
eyes that were as inscrutable and penetrating as his secret thoughts and
piercing mind. One might almost have called him pretty, except for his
mouth, which could narrow into a hard, cruel line. His precise height is
unknown, but a friend of his described him as a little above average. Photographs
and several items of clothing donated to the Tate Gallery
Archive in the 1980s suggest he was probably five foot eight or nine.
Sickert was fluent in German, English, French, and Italian. He knew
Latin well enough to teach it to friends, and he was well acquainted with
Danish and Greek and possibly knew a smattering of Spanish and Portuguese.
He was said to read the classics in their original languages, but
he didn’t always finish a book once he started it. It wasn’t uncommon to
find dozens of novels strewn about, opened to the last page that had
snagged his interest. Mostly, Sickert was addicted to newspapers,
tabloids, and journals.
Until his death in 1942, his studios and studies looked like a recycling
center for just about every bit of newsprint to roll off the European
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presses. One might ask how any hard-working person could find time to
go through four, five, six, ten newspapers a day, but Sickert had a
method. He didn’t bother with what didn’t interest him, whether it was
politics, economics, world affairs, wars, or people. Nothing mattered to
Sickert unless it somehow affected Sickert.
He usually preferred to read about the latest entertainment to come
to town, to scrutinize art critiques, to turn quickly to any story about
crime, and to search for his own name if there was any reason it might
be in print on a given day. He was fond of letters to the editor, especially
ones he wrote and signed with a pseudonym. Sickert relished knowing
what other people were doing, especially in the privacy of their own notalways-
so-tidy Victorian lives. “Write, write, write!” he would beg his
friends. “Tell me in detail all sorts of things, things that have amused you
and how and when and where, and all sorts of gossip about every one.”
Sickert despised the upper class, but he was a star stalker. He somehow
managed to hobnob with the major celebrities of the day: Henry Irving
and Ellen Terry, Aubrey Beardsley, Henry James, Max Beerbohm,
Oscar Wilde, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Rodin, André Gide, Édouard Dujardin,
Proust, Members of Parliament. But he did not necessarily know
many of them, and no onefamous or otherwiseever really knew him.
Not even his first wife, Ellen, who would turn forty in less than two
weeks. Sickert may not have given much thought to his wife’s birthday
on this bank holiday, but it was extremely unlikely he had forgotten it.
He was much admired for his amazing memory. Throughout his life
he would amuse dinner guests by performing long passages of musicals
and plays, dressed for the parts, his recitations flawless. Sickert would
not have forgotten that Ellen’s birthday was August 18th and a very easy
occasion to ruin. Maybe he would “forget.” Maybe he would vanish into
one of his secret rented hovels that he called studios. Maybe he would
take Ellen to a romantic café in Soho and leave her alone at the table
while he dashed off to a music hall and then stayed out the rest of the
night. Ellen loved Sickert all her sad life, despite his cold heart, his patho-
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logical lying, his self-centeredness, and his habit of disappearing for
dayseven weekswithout warning or explanation.
Walter Sickert was an actor by nature more than by virtue of employment.
He lived on the center stage of his secret, fantasy-driven life
and was just as comfortable moving about unnoticed in the deep shadows
of isolated streets as he was in the midst of throbbing crowds. He
had a great range of voice and was a master of greasepaint and wardrobe.
So gifted at disguise was he that as a boy he often went about unrecognized
by his neighbors and family.
Throughout his long and celebrated life, he was notorious for constantly
changing his appearance with a variety of beards and mustaches,
for his bizarre dress that in some cases constituted costumes, for his hairstyles
including shaving his head. He was, wrote French artist and
friend Jacques-Emile Blanche, a “Proteus.” Sickert’s “genius for camouflage
in dress, in the fashion of wearing his hair, and in his manner of
speaking rival Fregoli’s,” Blanche recalled. In a portrait Wilson Steer
painted of Sickert in 1890, Sickert sports a phony-looking mustache that
resembles a squirrel’s tail pasted above his mouth.
He also had a penchant for changing his name. His acting career,
paintings, etchings, drawings, and prolific letters to colleagues, friends,
and newspapers reveal many personas: Mr. Nemo (Latin for “Mr. Nobody”),
An Enthusiast, A Whistlerite, Your Art Critic, An Outsider, Walter
Sickert, Sickert, Walter R. Sickert, Richard Sickert, W. R. Sickert,
W.S., R.S., S., Dick, W. St., Rd. Sickert LL.D., R.St. A.R.A., and RDSt
Sickert did not write his memoirs, keep a diary or calendar, or date
most of his letters or works of art, so it is difficult to know where he was
or what he was doing on or during any given day, week, month, or even
year. I could find no record of his whereabouts or activities on August 6,
1888, but there is no reason to suspect he was not in London. Based on
notes he scribbled on music-hall sketches, he was in London just two days
earlier, on August 4th.
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Whistler would be getting married in London five days later, on August
11th. Although Sickert hadn’t been invited to the small, intimate
wedding, he wasn’t the sort to miss iteven if he had to spy on it.
The great painter James McNeill Whistler had fallen deeply in love
with the “remarkably pretty” Beatrice Godwin, who was to occupy the
most prominent position in his life and entirely change the course of it.
Likewise, Whistler occupied one of the most prominent positions in Sickert’s
life and had entirely changed the course of it. “Nice boy, Walter,”
Whistler used to say in the early 1880s when he was still fond of the aspiring
and extraordinarily gifted young man. By the time of Whistler’s
engagement their friendship had cooled, but Sickert could not have been
prepared for what must have seemed a shockingly unexpected and complete
abandonment by the Master he idolized, envied, and hated.
Whistler and his new bride planned to honeymoon and travel the rest of
the year in France, where they hoped to reside permanently.
The anticipated connubial bliss of the flamboyant artistic genius and
egocentric James McNeill Whistler must have been disconcerting to his
former errand boy–apprentice. One of Sickert’s many roles was the irresistible
womanizer, but offstage he was nothing of the sort. Sickert was
dependent on women and loathed them. They were intellectually inferior
and useless except as caretakers or objects to manipulate, especially for
art or money. Women were a dangerous reminder of an infuriating and
humiliating secret that Sickert carried not only to the grave but beyond
it, because cremated bodies reveal no tales of the flesh, even if they are
exhumed. Sickert was born with a deformity of his penis requiring surgeries
when he was a toddler that would have left him disfigured if not
mutilated. He probably was incapable of an erection. He may not have
had enough of a penis left for penetration, and it is quite possible he had
to squat like a woman to urinate.
“My theory of the crimes is that the criminal has been badly disfigured,”
says an October 4, 1888, letter filed with the Whitechapel Murders
papers at the Corporation of London Records Office, “possibly
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had his privy member destroyed& he is now revenging himself on the
sex by these atrocities.” The letter is written in purple pencil and enigmatically
signed “Scotus,” which could be the Latin for Scotsman.
“Scotch” can mean a shallow incision or to cut. Scotus could also be a
strange and erudite reference to Johannes Scotus Eriugena, a ninthcentury
theologian and teacher of grammar and dialectics.
For Walter Sickert to imagine Whistler in love and enjoying a sexual
relationship with a woman might well have been the catalyst that made
Sickert one of the most dangerous and confounding killers of all time.
He began to act out what he had scripted most of his life, not only in
thought but in boyhood sketches that depicted women being abducted,
tied up, and stabbed.
The psychology of a violent, remorseless murderer is not defined by
connecting dots. There are no facile explanations or infallible sequences
of cause and effect. But the compass of human nature can point a certain
way, and Sickert’s feelings could only have been inflamed by
Whistler’s marrying the widow of architect and archaeologist Edward
Godwin, the man who had lived with actress Ellen Terry and fathered
The sensuously beautiful Ellen Terry was one of the most famous actresses
of the Victorian era, and Sickert was fixated on her. As a teenager,
he had stalked her and her acting partner, Henry Irving. Now Whistler
had links to not one but both objects of Sickert’s obsessions, and these
three stars in Sickert’s universe formed a constellation that did not include
him. The stars cared nothing about him. He was truly Mr. Nemo.
But in the late summer of 1888 he gave himself a new stage name that
during his life would never be linked to him, a name that soon enough
would be far better known than those of Whistler, Irving, and Terry.
The actualization of Jack the Ripper’s violent fantasies began on the
carefree bank holiday of August 6, 1888, when he slipped out of the
wings to make his debut in a series of ghastly performances that were destined
to become the most celebrated so-called murder mystery in history.
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It is widely and incorrectly believed that his violent spree ended as
abruptly as it began, that he struck out of nowhere and then vanished
from the scene.
Decades passed, then fifty years, then a hundred, and his bloody sexual
crimes have become anemic and impotent. They are puzzles, mystery
weekends, games, and “Ripper Walks” that end with pints in the Ten
Bells pub. Saucy Jack, as the Ripper sometimes called himself, has starred
in moody movies featuring famous actors and special effects and spates
of what the Ripper said he craved: blood, blood, blood. His butcheries
no longer inspire fright, rage, or even pity as his victims moulder quietly,
some of them in unmarked graves.
P O R T R A I T O F A K I L L E R
[ 7 ]--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Présentation de l'éditeur
Now updated with new material that brings the killer's picture into clearer focus.
In the fall of 1888, all of London was held in the grip of unspeakable terror. An elusive madman calling himself Jack the Ripper was brutally butchering women in the slums of London’s East End. Police seemed powerless to stop the killer, who delighted in taunting them and whose crimes were clearly escalating in violence from victim to victim. And then the Ripper’s violent spree seemingly ended as abruptly as it had begun. He had struck out of nowhere and then vanished from the scene. Decades passed, then fifty years, then a hundred, and the Ripper’s bloody sexual crimes became anemic and impotent fodder for puzzles, mystery weekends, crime conventions, and so-called “Ripper Walks” that end with pints of ale in the pubs of Whitechapel. But to number-one New York Times bestselling novelist Patricia Cornwell, the Ripper murders are not cute little mysteries to be transformed into parlor games or movies but rather a series of terrible crimes that no one should get away with, even after death. Now Cornwell applies her trademark skills for meticulous research and scientific expertise to dig deeper into the Ripper case than any detective before her—and reveal the true identity of this fabled Victorian killer.
In Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, Cornwell combines the rigorous discipline of twenty-first century police investigation with forensic techniques undreamed of during the late Victorian era to solve one of the most infamous and difficult serial murder cases in history. Drawing on unparalleled access to original Ripper evidence, documents, and records, as well as archival, academic, and law-enforcement resources, FBI profilers, and top forensic scientists, Cornwell reveals that Jack the Ripper was none other than a respected painter of his day, an artist now collected by some of the world’s finest museums: Walter Richard Sickert.
It has been said of Cornwell that no one depicts the human capability for evil better than she. Adding layer after layer of circumstantial evidence to the physical evidence discovered by modern forensic science and expert minds, Cornwell shows that Sickert, who died peacefully in his bed in 1942, at the age of 81, was not only one of Great Britain’s greatest painters but also a serial killer, a damaged diabolical man driven by megalomania and hate. She exposes Sickert as the author of the infamous Ripper letters that were written to the Metropolitan Police and the press. Her detailed analysis of his paintings shows that his art continually depicted his horrific mutilation of his victims, and her examination of this man’s birth defects, the consequent genital surgical interventions, and their effects on his upbringing present a casebook example of how a psychopathic killer is created.
New information and startling revelations detailed in Portrait of a Killer include:
- How a year-long battery of more than 100 DNA tests—on samples drawn by Cornwell’s forensics team in September 2001 from original Ripper letters and Sickert documents—yielded the first shadows of the 75- to 114 year-old genetic evid...--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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Meilleurs commentaires des clients
Et tout le problème est là. En effet, Patricia Cornwell ne mène pas une enquête donc l'issue serait l'inculpation du célèbre peintre, mais multiplie des recoupements discutables pour justifier sa conviction. Malgré les six millions de dollars investis en tests ADN et autres, l'auteur ne parvient pas à me convaincre, et l'impression générale est bien celle d'une vérité (peu probable) parmi tant d'autres ...
Of course Cornwell claim that the artist William Sickert was Jack the Ripper is open to debate. We need to remember that EVERYTHING involving this case is open to debate. One of the initial decisions you have to make in trying to reason out the real identity of the Ripper is to determine who his victims were. Even the acceptance of the canonical five (Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Kelly) is a basic assumption that is easily called into question. Stride and Eddows were both killed the same night; Strides body was not mutilated, the assumption being the killer was interrupted. The horrible mutilation to Eddows' face is assumed to be because the Ripper was enraged that he had been interrupted in his first killing. But what if Eddows had not been killed? Would we still assume Stride was a victim of the Ripper? If Eddows had been the sole victim that night what motivation would we have ascribed to her mutilation? Any and all assumptions made to deduce the Ripper's identity are debatable.
For most people familiar with this case the most astounding part of Cornwell's case against Sickert is the argument that he wrote MOST of the Ripper letters. The assumption has always been that only one or two of the letters might have been real, so Cornwell is making a radical argument in this regard. Ultimately this is the strongest part of Cornwell's case, especially given her repeated observation that these letters are confessions as far as the law is concerned.Lire la suite ›
Tout d'abord, il faut savoir qu'elle n'a pas choisi cet homme au hasard: il faisait partie des hommes suspectés à l'époque d'être Jack l'éventreur...elle a jugé que les autres suspects ne pouvaient pas avoir commis ces crimes donc, elle s'est acharnée sur lui.
Ce livre est très long à lire car elle développe des éléments de la vie de Sickert pendant de longues pages alors qu'elle n'a aucune preuve tangible.
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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. As a result, Sickert's habit of long walks become 'obsessive walks,' and his love of walking at night becomes evidence of his psychopathology, when night walking was also the habit of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Paul Bowles, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, and Charles Baudelaire.
Sickert's penchant for watching and studying people is also interpreted as a sign of his predatory madness, rather than as an attribute common to most visual artists, actors, and writers--to say nothing of detectives and crime writers.
Describing a poem sent to the police and signed 'Jack the Ripper' which she believes was written by Sickert, Cornwell describes the poem's rhymes as "not those of an illiterate or deranged person." Since she believes Sickert was a "psychopath," by what criteria was he a "psychopath" but not a "deranged person?" Cornwell says of the broken, middle-aged Sickert, "He subsisted in filth and chaos. He was a slob and he stank," but on the next page states, "he traversed the surface of life as a respectable, intellectual gentleman."
The same easy logic the author uses to turn the lights on Sickert could be used on anyone, at anytime. Cornwell has been obsessed with and made a career of criminal behavior, death, and murder herself; by her own what-makes-madness equation, shouldn't she explain her own morbid preoccupations to the reader?
In light of the many sound accomplishments found here, it's unfortunate how many errors in judgement Cornwell has made, especially if "staking her career" on this volume as she says she is.
Sickert is portrayed on any number of pages as manipulative, bizarre, cunning, misogynistic, treacherous, desperate for attention, and dangerously arrogant--Cornwell states these are facts about his character--but provides almost no sources for her information, when this should have been scrupulously documented.
The worst others have to say about Sickert comes to almost nothing. Under oath, former teacher Whistler says, "Walter has a treacherous side to his character," his first wife's sister, who clearly disliked Sickert, perhaps with good reason, says "they cannot know what he really is as you do," and Clive Bell refers to him a man of "no standards." In exaggerated fashion, Cornwell calls Sickert a "master of disguise"--a master, not just an aficionado--but again provides no sources.
Viewing early drawings by Sickert--or, she admits, perhaps drawn by his father--Cornwell believes she already sees clear evidence of a woman-hater and a violent, disturbed mind.
But when the reader refers to these drawings, the figures are hardly more than stick figures; one male figure Cornwell ominously perceives as "about to spring" at a defenseless woman looks more like a hemorrhoid sufferer hesitantly lowering himself onto a cold toilet.
Yet two Ripper letters containing drawings obviously done by a talented hand are called "crude." An in-profile caricature of a woman is said to have "an ugly mole" on the nose, but the "mole" is clearly just an oversized, if still unsightly, nostril.
Readers will get the sense that one thing Cornwell isn't is a visual artist, a race she seems to have little understanding of or sympathy with.
Sickert's relationships with his wives is barely touched upon until the end, and what first wife Ellen thought about her husband, whom she loved until her death, is never made clear.
Since Cornwell believes Sickert was impotent all his life and perhaps left without a penis after three traumatic childhood surgeries, the reader should know a great deal about his marital life, and what his wives felt about marrying a man only to discover a eunuch in their honeymoon beds.
Cornwell, in sadly politically correct fashion, quotes her mentor Dr. Marcella Fierro as saying "a woman has the right to walk around naked and not be raped or murdered." In the theoretical and idealized Garden of Eden of liberalism, that certainly may be the case. Reality, again, is something else. Cornwell embarrasses herself by stooping so low to make an unnecessary case for the Ripper's desperate, tragic victims.
The author should have spent several more years on this book and then written a scholarly, definitive account of her presently unfinished investigation. Why the rush to publication?
Cornwell's errors and misjudgements throughout will only raise powerful doubts about her methods and conclusions, and prejudice the reader against the more solid fruits of her labor.
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. Could Have can do just about anything, from being a master of disguise, to being a master of disguising his handwriting and writing a vast amount of letters in all different styles. What a clever boy, he is.
DNA has supposedly been found that links Walter Sickert to the Ripper letters. This is crucial to her thesis, so they cannot be hoaxes in her opinion. She waffles on about the DNA evidence throughout the book, here and there, but really only gets into it for about ten pages or so.
I'll save you money by quoting her findings (if only someone else had done me the same service):
"At best we have a 'cautious indicator' that the Sickert and Ripper mitochondrial DNA sequences may have come from the same person."
Hardly sounds like "case closed" to me. And that is Pat putting the best face on it. The spine of her case, and it can't be proven. And even if it was, would that make Sickert the Ripper, or, more likely, one of the many hoaxers of the time, instead?
Pat also seems to link every single murder case in Europe to Jack the Ripper's door, all over England, to France, to Italy. Never mind the different MO's. Never mind the different victimologies. While it is true that a killer can change MO's, styles, change his victim prefrences, its not that likely, is it?
Pat will pick a murder case, seemingly from a hat, and mention it on one page 'such and such was killed here etc etc', describe the details, and then plunge right back into her theme without *ever* tying it in or proving that it was a Ripper crime at all, much less Sickert's.
I guess all violent deaths in those days were all Jack the Ripper victims. Who knew?
I'm surprised she didn't take it farther. Extend her own logic about unsolved crimes into other areas. For instance:
Sickert COULD HAVE faked his own death in 1942, lived on, and have been standing on the Grassy Knoll in 1963 to kill JFK. His MO and victimology have changed, sure, but perhaps he was really only aiming at Jackie.
Why not? He could have done it. Perhaps he did. Its physically possible. No one can prove he wasn't there. Its a perfectly valid theory.
Oh dear, did I just give away the plot for Patricia Cornwell's sequel?
The above arguement sums up the book, really. No one can prove or disprove it, so she will write it and claim it is true.
If Walter Sickert had indeed faked his death and is still around, I'd say he would (not just could, but *would*) have one hell of a libel suit.
Save your money. Read something else!
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. Her reaction: "I was completely unnerved and thought my life might disintegrate right before my eyes." Looks like Ms. Cornwell had a lot at stake in nailing Sickert. Why Sickert? My guess is because he is the only one of five or six well known Ripper suspects who has no family left alive to sue Patricia Cornwell.
Oh, there's a lot of 21st century psycho babble that he hated women in spite of the fact that he kept marrying the darned creatures (as a child he had an operation on his private parts - so MAYBE he couldn't perform sexually - Cornwell doesn't know this, but she guesses). Unfortunately she accuses the Ripper of murdering a young boy too, so much for the woman-hater theory. But logic doesn't deter Kay, I mean Patricia. And there's DNA evidence too, yeah - sure, and let us pray that they're not springing convicted murderers today on DNA evidence this weak.
Listen, I'm an old Kay Scarpetta fan who has seen a huge drop-off in the quality of Cornwell's work in the past few years. I think Pat signed her Hollywoood contract and stopped working hard. The last Scarpetta novel was really bad. I'll bet a Kay Scarpetta movie is coming out soon, and I'll bet her Hollywood backers were screaming for some publicity. Well, they got it. CASE CLOSED.
What is most disturbing is that Cornwell dismisses previous efforts to identify the subject as speculative and relying on flawed notions of personality types. She indicts Sickert largely based on a psycho-babble interpretation of his lifestyle and drawings. This effort seems to me to be a 21st Century version of the phrenology which disgusts her in reviewing 19th and 20th Century efforts to identify the Ripper.
I could go on about the the substantive weaknesses as they are legion, but suffice to say, as an attorney, I could have Sickert out without presenting a case. As a former state's attorney I wouldn't bothering bringing charges. She often tries to anticipate what a defense attorney would do with her evidence. She simply shows how little she knows about defense attorneys. Her "evidence" would be shredded by any competent attorney.
From a literary standpoint, Cornwell seems to follow a lose chronology of the killings and then throws in whatever sticks to the wall: A little wife abuse here, a little deformity there, and mix it all with the fact that Sickert had a strange and dark personality (how strange for an artist) and sprinkles liberally throughout the book. She may have made an in depth analysis of these matters, but the information is so loosely presented in such a poorly organized manner that I had long since stopped caring by the end of the book.
This book is substantively weak, organizationally chaotic, and tinged with such presumptions of superiority and righteousness on behalf of the author that the final product really should not have been published. I enjoyed Cornwell's first few books, but stopped reading them because it became obvious that either her talent had peaked or she was mailing in the newer books. I tooks a chance on this book based on an review. I feel like suing the reviewer for the $7.99 I spent on the book. I'd have a better chance of winning that case than Cornwell would winning hers.
Walter Sickert was in France while at least four of the five canonical murders took place. There are nearly a half-dozen independent sources, that we know of, that attest to this fact. Only one of those sources, a letter, is mentioned by Cornwell, and then summarily dismissed because there was no post-mark to prove when it was sent.
Ms. Cornwell claims to have found a match between Sickert's DNA and the Ripper. This is not true. She found a sequence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) on both letters signed "Jack the Ripper" and letters written by Walter Sickert. This is an important distinction. mtDNA, unlike nuclear DNA (which was not found on any of the correspondence), is not unique. A particular mtDNA sequence can be shared by anywhere between 1% and 10% of the population. Ignore the countless problems of DNA contamination and provenance that comes with examining documents over a century old, and you still have the problem that these "Ripper letters" are known to be hoaxes (nearly 600 of them were sent to the press and police from all corners of the globe in 1888 and beyond). On top of that, Sickert's DNA no longer exists - he was cremated after his death. There is no way to tell whether the mtDNA found on Sickert's letters was his, his wife's, a friend's, or that of any of a thousand researchers and students who have handled them in the past sixty years.
Although Patricia claims that the evidence she has amassed would be enough for a jury in 1888 to say "Hang him!", I have to disagree. At best, she has found partial evidence to suggest that perhaps Walter Sickert hoaxed one or more Ripper letters. But even if that were proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, there is nothing to suggest that these "Ripper letters" were actually from the murderer. Most students of the case believe them all, with the possible exception of the "From Hell" letter, to be hoaxes.
I would suggest that readers interested in the case pick up Phil Sugden's "Complete History of Jack the Ripper", which was just recently reprinted in paperback. Alternatively, you can check out the web site "Casebook: Jack the Ripper," which contains a great deal of information on Cornwell's book, Walter Sickert, and all manner of Ripper-related topics.