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Books: Too many questions remain in this unsatisfactory book; Jack The Ripper: The Facts by Paul Begg Robson, pounds 20 Reviewed by Jayne Adams.

Byline: Jayne Adams

If you read a book called Jack the Ripper: The Facts, is it too much to ask that you may eventually get some sort of answer?

After all, this is supposed to be a 'thoroughly revised and completely rewrittenedition of Jack the Ripper: The UncensoredFacts, published in 1988'. That the author is Paul Begg, who is a world authority of Jack - he even edits a magazine called The Ripperologist - bodes well. If anybody is going to know it surely would be Begg.

But then again maybe he should get out more.

According to Begg, the identity of Jack the Ripper isn't really very important.

Instead it's the story of those crimes, of the women who died, and the society and times in which they lived that matters and holds the enduring fascination.

Rather than getting facts, you get a more gory and macabre look at the lives and unfortunate demise of the most famous victims Jack murdered back in 1888.

The book does highlight the possibility of at least another six victims before the first confirmed Ripper victim, Mary Ann Nichols, met her end.

But instead of pursuing this line of inquiry, The Facts inevitably resorts to speculation, rumours and unconfirmed information the light of day; not my definition of 'facts'.

The way Jack The Ripper committed these heinous crimes and apparently stopped after the mutilation of Mary Jane Kelly in November 1888 is the main reason for its enduring fascination.

There does seem to be some sort of morbid attraction about this subject which shows little sign of abating.

The book describes how the Jack the Ripper files were not closed until 1892 while it adds details of a further four alleged, albeit unconfirmed, possible Ripper victims.

Unfortunately, despite detailed backgrounds of the victims' lives and details along with pictures of their corpses, The Facts ends up being just another book going over the same old ground where all the other books have been.

The book reads more like an index book, referring constantly to other books and publications, as there is nothing new to learn on the subject.

Even some speculation over possible suspects is going over the same old ground again with the most up to date being taken from Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed where the theorywas posited that the painter Walter Sickert led a secret life as London's most famous Victorian murderer.

Could Cornwell have trodden on someone's toes?

If you have never read or even heard about Jack the Ripper then this could be for you.

At the risk of spoiling the ending, the book is more than a little disappointing as we get no clearer to establishing Jack's identity.

'Who knows! I certainly don't' is Paul Begg's answer to the one and only question people are seeking.

You have to ask yourself, are people really expected to give money for old rope after all.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 6, 2004
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