1888, Whitechapel. Jack the Ripper terrorizes prostitutes and baffles Scotland Yard; 1888, London. Annie Oakley thrills audiences of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with her expert marksmanship. The Ripper may have picked the wrong target in this fascinating retelling of the well-known case of Jack the Ripper… with a Western twist! A mentally unbalanced killer who slashes throats and eviscerates his victims is stalking the Whitechapel district of London’s East End. Whitechapel, with its odors of unlimed outhouses, cabbage, cigars, coal smoke and fish; Whitechapel, with its boarding houses and casual wards, its impoverished working people, its prostitutes. Full moon, dense fog, shrill whistles from Bobbies on the beat; Hansom cabs, horses’ hooves clopping along wet cobblestones. The chills up your back as you look over your shoulder into the dark for the crazy Ripper with the long, sharp knife. This blend of fact and fiction will keep you turning the pages long after bedtime as the story unfolds in gaslit, Victorian London.
Who does not like Jack the Ripper stories? When I saw that this book was available I picked it up. The description of Whitechapel in the blurb evoked a picture right away, so I was really looking forward to reading this book.
At first it seemed to be more or less a re-telling of the Ripper case, while Annie Oakley hardly made any appearance, except as the star of the Wild West Show. I was wondering when she would eventually come into play. Since I enjoy reading the original story, though, I didn’t miss her much. The atmosphere was described in such a way that I could picture the area, the people and everything surrounding that mysterious case very well.
When Annie finally got involved in the hunt for the Ripper I found it a nice twist. I just couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to find out whether they would trap the killer or not – and I wanted to know NOW.
Story vs. facts
Tim Champlin took some liberties with the story, some of which brought the people to life, like for example Abberline’s sudden desire to go and work out at the Police’s Athletic Club, others I found unnecessary.
For example, Walter Sickert was no suspect of the police at the time of the investigation, as far as I know, but was mentioned as such in the book. According to the police he was always around when the killings happened but in reality he was in France at the time of four of the murders.
The police at the time believed that the “Dear Boss” letter that coined the term “Jack the Ripper” was written by a journalist named Tom Bulling, and that it was not written by the killer, as they did here. However, those details, even though not quite correct, didn’t mar the story as it was.
Up to the end I was spellbound and couldn’t stop. However, I was disappointed with the ending which was an anticlimax if I ever read one. I will talk about this below. If you don’t want spoilers, please don’t read what I’m saying below the spoiler alert!
If you like historical mysteries, Jack the Ripper stories in general and foggy London, read “Annie and the Ripper”!
OK, the ending was anticlimatic, to say the least.
Not only was the killer somebody who had never been mentioned in the story before, something that I find highly unsatisfying, there was also an angle to his motives that was extremely boring.
Why the killer had to have supernatural strength at the end during the chase I didn’t understand. He could have just run away and fallen into the Thames without running and climbing for miles on end. Then the “possession” angle would have been unnecessary. To give Jack the Ripper a demonic touch, I don’t know, I just didn’t like it.
Also, I find religious motives very bland and obvious. Whether it is a crazed priest who kills whores because they act against the will of God or whether it is a Satanist who sacrifices humans makes no difference to me, religion is just too simple.
Alright, nobody knows who the Ripper was and it is very possible that it was someone who never turned up in the investigation. But if Tim Champlin wanted to show that and give us a name we hadn’t come across before, why didn’t he use Montague Druitt? That man actually did exist, drowned in the Thames and after his death there were no more murders, which is – among other reasons -why he WAS suspected to be the Ripper later on. At least that solution would have been a true possibility, as opposed to the one with the guy who really nobody has ever heard of before.
The ending was not what I would have expected and it disappointed me quite a bit.
||Annie and the Ripper
||Pill Hill Press
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