The Complete and Essential Jack the Ripper by Paul Begg and John Bennett is split into three main parts; the first part deals with the victims, including those who are sometimes dismissed from Ripper canon; the second part deals with the different theories put forward over the years on the identity of Jack the Ripper; the third part deals with the “myth” of Jack – how popular culture has seized upon the eponymous murderer, sometimes in a less than tasteful manner.
For me, this book was a good starting point in the history of Ripperology. It remained more or less unbiased throughout, laying out theories about the identity of Jack and putting forth arguments for and against the particular theory being discussed. The victimology section was also interesting as it looked at the witnesses who discovered the bodies, the neighbourhoods in which this happened, as well as police and press involvement that both hindered and helped the investigations as a whole. I would have liked a fuller view of the sociology of the time, but in a book that is, I believe, meant to be a starting point for individuals interested in the subject matter, it is a solid overview of the facts (and indeed fiction). I particularly found interesting the contemporary popular culture implications of Jack the Ripper and how the myth/icon of Jack the Ripper affected other subjects, such as violence against women and the “dumbing down” of what was a series of horrific murders.
I would definitely recommend this book for any individual who knew only the most basic of information about Jack the Ripper and wanted to expand their knowledge base, as I did.