First an admission. I like the whole Jack the Ripper thing. It’s rather fascinating. A serial killer running loose in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, preying on prostitutes, committing at least 5 murders and as many as 11, depending on the theory. And he was never found, but theories abound as to who he was.

Jack the Theorist by Jon Hartless starts with the first killing and follows two men, a ripperologist, Professor Wolf, and his friend Sir Arthur Smythe, a paranormal researcher, as the entire town follows the story, horrified and obsessed, and the media fuels the speculation.

“Your paper printing the lurid accounts again and again, and putting up huge billboards showing half-naked women being stalked by a madman with a knife, had no part to play in creating this climate of ‘public hysteria’?”

“We cannot be held responsible for the credulous nature of the public,” replied Sideways, disdainfully. (77 %)

Wolfe himself is making good money by writing articles and giving lectures on the case, but his theories grow more and more outlandish. Smythe, in contrast, is quiet for the most part, going along with Wolfe on his traipses throughout the city, but observing, listening, paying attention rather than jumping to conclusions.

Jack the Theorist was funny, in a macabre sort of way, but it felt forced to me, although I did appreciate how Hartless was able to make all the various theories seem equally ridiculous. The whole novella felt a little contrived. I even saw the twist at the end coming.

By the way, I don’t understand the cover, it just doesn’t seem to go along with the feeling of the book at all.

2½ out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective

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Published August 13, 2011 by Vagabondage Press
50 pages

Book source: Giveaway win