Monday, 27 August 2012

Just finished "The Secret Of Prisoner 1167:  Was This Man Jack The Ripper?" by James Tully.

The subtitle is rhetorical - Tully is convinced.  On my own part, I've some misgivings but parts of his theory raises suggestive points in the case as a whole if not of the circumstantial guilt of James Kelly.  Tully admits that after years of interest in the Ripper murders, even his awareness of Kelly's nomination as Jack was only raised by an article by John Morrison.

James Kelly was convicted of the murder of his wife, stabbing her in the neck with a pocket-knife, in 1883.  Found insane, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Broadmoor hospital.  In 1888, he escaped the "secure" hospital and, in an astounding story of chance, incompetant authority and sheer determination, he remained on the loose for almost forty years!  He'd given himself up twice, after travels in Britain, France, America and Canada and, finally, returned to Broadmoor to knock on their gates for re-admission!

Tully's first assumption - suitably fitting his nomination of Kelly in the role of Jack - is that the first Ripper killing was that of Martha Tabram.  Her naming as a Ripper victim always causes contention but, it can't be denied, the M.O. is fitting - unknown killer, East End location, throat slit then post mortem mutilation of the trunk and sexual organs.  However, Ripperologists argue against her inclusion in the "known" victims.
Second (to me) surprising inclusion is that of Alice McKenzie and Frances Coles as Ripper victims ... years after the "canon" barbarity in Miller's Court of Mary Kelly.  These, I'd suggest, are only accepted since the duration between Mary's and Alice's killings was spent by the suspect abroad!  It might be also said that while the classic Ripper deaths increased in mutilation and excess, Alice and Frances suffered relatively little abuse - their abdomen had been cut - true - but ... um ... nothing had been "done" to their internal organs.
Thirdly, Tully implicitly links the authorship of the Dear Boss letter and postcard to Kelly's reappearance in England - the author sees a similarity between existing letters of the Broadmoor escapee and Saucy Jack!

While an interesting nomination for the Ripper, I'm afraid Kelly isn't convincing to me.  A man who is mentally disturbed and kills his wife in a jealous, disturbed rage doesn't automatically "up the scale" by rampage around, killing and mutilating prostitutes!  His relation between classic Offender Profiling of a serial sex killer and James Kelly's reported condition fits ... as many others!  In effect Tully puts Kelly in the frame because he was a mental patient, convicted of stabbing his wife, and free.  What about the undetected psychotic killer?

However, the points that I find worth closer examination are these:

1)  Tully raises the possibility of the canon Ripper Double-Death of "Long" Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes as pure coincidence!  Where everyone has considered the short period between the two as the almost supernatural ability of Jack to spirit himself from one location to another invisibly, Tully posits a suspect for Liz Stride's murderer.  A slight yet strong point is that nearly all sexual frenzy serial killers cannot be "interrupted" or distracted in their attention.  If Jack was interrupted in his "attentions" to Lizzie, it would take quite a few policemen on the scene to make him flee!

2)  There was a long-lasting cover-up concerning the escape of James Kelly from Broadmoor and his possible links to the Ripper killings.  Frankly, his escape and subsequent long freedom was an utter balls-up on the part of the police, the Home Office and Broadmoor!  With all the flak the police took over the Ripper, the last thing they needed was publicity over a murderous psychotic trotting around England so any authoritarian sweeping under the rug is perfectly understandable.  Tully was very illuminating (and convincing) in this area.

3)  His tidy explanations of classically troubling factors in the Ripper cases - the Double Killing and the mysterious Removed Chalked Message - are well imagined and not unreasonable.

All in all, an interesting addition to any Ripperologist's library.  Contentious for the most part, I wouldn't say it was groundbreaking or "the last word".  However, it certainly raises interesting points.

Hey ho ...

I'm currently starting Tacitus' Histories.  Can't say my literary diet isn't varied.

Monday, 6 August 2012

A review - I've not done any for a while and I've started to get withdrawal.
“The Sins of The Father:  A Mediaeval Mystery” by C. B. Hanley is set during the turmoil after the death of King John, the occupation by forces of the French prince Louis (later King Louis VIII) and the start of rebellion by Barons, to enthrone Johns son Henry III.  So far, so good.  The location is the impressive castle of Conisbrough in Yorkshire.  Its lord the Earl of Surrey William de Warrenne, has been called to arms, to muster a force as well as act as a central meeting of other lords retinues – they gather to march upon Lincoln, occupied by French forces, and relieve it’s castle’s garrison of English royalists.

In this gathering of armies and nobility, Edwin Weaver, the young son of the castle’s bailiff, has to keep order among its civilian population.  Intelligent and kindly, he’s taken unawares when summoned by the Earl and his castellan Sir Geoffrey.  One of the visiting nobles is brutally murdered – a favourite of the old King and known to be willing to seek favour by exposing (or implying) treachery against the young King.  Since Earl Surrey’s past is somewhat chequered, does he have motive for the killing?  Edwin is ordered to uncover the killer, before the host marches onto Lincoln in two days!

What follows is a great novel, combining an intriguing mystery with period detail and intelligent characterisation.  The plot is intelligent, with clues scant yet present and the actual solution shocking.  The reader understands the basic motive but red herrings lead us away from the true killer.  The location detail is wonderful, giving a intriguing insight into the workings of the lower echelons of castle inhabitants as well as it’s lesser nobility.  I can highly recommend this novel to both mystery readers as well as those interested in medieval life.

Published by The Mystery Press, 2012, ISBN:  0-7524-8091-6