Thomas Schachner and Hendrik Pustow
Militzke, 2006. 272pp., illustrated, index, bib.
In their preface the authors state their intention clearly: to present the facts based on contemporary sources and introduce some of the popular suspects without bias. They stick to this scheme throughout the book.
The authors quote contemporary police files, witnesses and press reports (including from German newspapers).
After a short but very important look at the general living conditions in the East End of the time, the authors deal with each of the following murder cases one after the other: Tabram, Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly.
For each victim they give a short summary of their lives (as far as they are known today) and of the circumstances under which the body was found. Finally they close each chapter with post mortem reports or material from the inquests.
They do show a tendency to be of the opinion that Tabram has to be counted in and this is the only time the authors add an opinion (but well reasoned and very carefully written, not boasting as fact). With Stride they remain absolutely neutral but they mention the possibility of a domestic killing (i.e. Kidney).
Between the chapters about Eddowes and Kelly there is one that deals with the letters, the police work (house to house search, blood hounds etc), the general uproar in the East End and the Torso murders. They mention the letters being believed to be hoaxes even at the time and that there were opinions during that period that the Torso Murders could be by the same hand but that it is generally believed now that they were commited by a different killer. They quote Monro's statement from 11th September 1889 mentioning the different style and methods.
The last part of the book is dedicated to the introduction of the following suspects, one by one : Barnett, Bury, Cream, Deeming, Druitt, Hutchinson, Klosowski/Chapman, A. Kosmiski, Gull & the Royal Conspiracy, Maybrick, Ostrog, W. Sickert, Robert Donston Stephenson and Tumblety.
Each of these chapters are arranged equally: a short portait of his life (as far as is known) and then, in a pro and con listing, the most important aspects that speak for and against them being the killer. There's no discussion and the readers can make up their own mind. For some of the suspects the simple stating of pros and cons is more than enough. The Royal Conspiracy & Gull are good examples. One reads the pros, then the cons and the conclusion is clear. With others, one's left more intrigued.
All the sources are professionally quoted in footnotes and a full bibliography is given. The translation of the original English source material is very good.
This book does not introduce a new suspect or new theory but gives a very good overall and unbiased view of the case and that is exactly what German readers 'needed'; the importance of this book lies in the fact that the little the average German knows about JTR usually comes from Cornwell, the Maybrick diary or the film 'From Hell'. So, this isn't just the first genuine German Ripper book but its value cannot be overestimated when it comes to clearing up myths.
For all Germans who want to inform themselves about the case this book is essential and even in comparison with the English market - with so many more decent books - it stands as a source to get a general, unbiased idea before diving into the details of the case.
Review by Christian Jaud.