With Jack the Ripper on the loose, 1888 was not a great year to be a prostitute in London. Besides the obvious dangers of poverty, disease, and abuse, if you were working as a prostitute in the Whitechapel district of the city you also had to keep your eyes open for a looming boogeyman who delighted in slitting women's necks and removing their organs. Talk about on-the-job stress.
Jack the Ripper is one of the most (in)famous serial killers in history. Though the killer's identity was never discovered, at least five women were thought to have been murdered by him over the course of his killing spree, and several more have tentative links to the killer. Various men have been suspected of the crimes, but no arrests were ever made. Jack the Ripper's identity continues to be a mystery.
And what reader doesn't love a mystery?
Even though the murders happened well over 100 years ago, we still can't stop speculating over Jack the Ripper's identity. This fascination has found its way onto our book shelves, where an interested reader can find a ton of books, both fiction and nonfiction, focusing on the killer. While the list of Jack the Ripper titles available is exhaustive, I've rounded up nine of my favorite books about Jack the Ripper, featuring both fiction and nonfiction titles (depending on whether you like your history factual or fictional!).
A lot of the books on this list are fictionalized versions of the Jack the Ripper murders, but in order to really appreciate them, you're going to need a good history lesson first. This is one of the best researched, most comprehensive histories out there, and it will teach you anything you could hope to learn about the Ripper case. Definitely pick this one up before you dive into any of the novels below.
Winnie Rudge is an author struggling to write her second novel after the wild success of her first. Determined to finish her story of a woman haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper, she moves to London in the hopes of completing her novel and reuniting with her stepcousin, John. But now John's missing and his apartment appears to be housing something not quite human.
If there's a killer on the loose in London in the late 1800's, who're you going to call? Sherlock Holmes, obviously! Your favorite cold, calculating detective is determined to solve the mystery of the Jack the Ripper murders with the help of Watson, Lestrade, and Miss Monk, a resident of Whitechapel who's lost a friend to the killer and doesn't want to be next.
I'm such a sucker for books about time travel. FBI Agent Morgan Nash is knocked out on the job and wakes up in London, 1888. Turns out someone's been improperly handling ancient manuscripts in the British Museum and accidentally brought Agent Nash back a hundred years or so. Of course he wants to return to his own time, but he's also landed right in the middle of the Jack the Ripper investigation. What FBI agent could turn that down?
Rory has moved to London from Louisiana to attend boarding school. Adjusting to a new school is rough, but it's even tougher when a Jack the Ripper copycat is running around and offing your neighbors. But what if it's not a copycat? Rory is convinced she's spotted the killer, but no one else seems to be able to see him. What if it's not a copycat but the ghost of the original Jack the Ripper looking to add a few more murders to his resume?
Alice James, an invalid, has found herself investigating the Jack the Ripper murders with her brother William, a famous psychologist, and her brother Henry, a brilliant novelist. Yes, we are talking about THAT Henry James. Why is Henry James trying to chase down Jack the Ripper? I don't know and honestly I don't care, because I can totally get behind any novel that's basically Henry James-detective fanfiction.
Throughout the Jack the Ripper investigation, police received several notes claiming to have been penned by the killer that continue to intrigue those interested in the case. Evans and Skinner examine these notes (and their suspected authors) in great detail, while also looking at the letters of several murder suspects.
The Worst Street in London focuses on the history of Dorset street, known for years for its connection to thievery, prostitution, and murder. While Jack the Ripper isn't the sole focus of the book, he is possibly the most famous killer to commit murder on Dorset Street, and it's extremely interesting to learn about its notorious reputation.
Not that any tale of Jack the Ripper is exactly lighthearted, but this one really doubles down on the tragedy: our story begins aboard the sinking Titanic. A man with cancer and a disabled woman know they aren't going to make it off of the ship alive, so they begin telling each other stories about their lives. It turns out the man had a hand in the Jack the Ripper case...but what exactly does he know?
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