Book Review: The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper

The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper by James Carnac

The blurb: This memoir was recently discovered and appears to have been written in the 1920s by somone who asserts that he was Jack the Ripper. This person is James Willoughby Carnac, this memoir written shortly before his death is an account of his entire life, including a few short months in 1888 when he became the murderer known to posterity as Jack the Ripper.

This book introduces a new suspect for the infamous murders in Whitechapel in 1888. There is information in this book that does not appear to be derived from contemporary newspapers or any other publications and the descriptions of Tottenham in the 1870s, the visits to performances of Jekyll and Hyde, the intricate geography of Whitechapel in 1888 are written with pin-point accuracy. There is also a credible motive given for James becoming the murderer Jack and also a reason for the end of the murders. Given the fact that the author also appear to have knowledge about aspects of the case not in the public arena at the time it could be that this actually is the autobiography of Jack the Ripper.

Ultimately it is up to the reader to decide if they believe the mystery has been solved at last but even if they end up deciding the account to be a work of fiction it would still be one of the very earliest imaginings of the Ripper case, written in the early years of the twentieth century, a fascinating piece of period writing and a worthy addition to the Ripper canon.

My review: Wow this is one creepy book. The cover is beautiful especially the little hat on the spine! It feels like velvet, a very nice book to have on your shelf. I find this whole book fascinating, the idea that you could find something like this buried in an attic or cellar,  a document with huge historical importance is just mind-blowing. I will begin shuffling through my grandparents files the first chance I get!

It’s hard to review this book as it’s non-fiction (according to the publisher) so I don’t know if I’m allowed to critique the writing style! The dedication is fantastic: ‘Dedicated with admiration and respect to the retired members of the Metropolitan Police Force in spite of whose energy and efficiency I have lived to write this book.’  See what I mean – creepy! The font is perfect too, very old school type-writer-esque.

James Carnac’s life is disturbed from the beginning, the events in his early life are unconventional at best and traumatic at worst. The tone of voice he delivers is chilling in its assuredness and strikes a note somewhere between a madman and a psychopath. I was slightly disappointed by the bits that were suggested had been removed from the manuscript, I’m not a huge lover of gore but I feel that to make a truly informed decision on whether this was the REAL Jack the Ripper you would need to see those pieces, if in fact, they did exist.

I would urge any crime or true crime fans to read this book, it’s gripping and has a potential answer to the UK’s biggest crime mystery! I am leaning towards believing James Carnac was Jack the Ripper but without forensic evidence I guess we’ll never know!

9 out of 10 stars! *********


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