Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards

Brian Naming Jack the RipperAfter 125 years of theorizing and speculation over the identity of Jack the Ripper, Russell Edwards is in the unique position of owning the first physical evidence relating to the crimes to have emerged since 1888 – a shawl belonging to one of the “Rippers” victims, Catherine Eddowes. This evidence is from one of the crime scenes, and has now been rigorously examined by some of the most highly-qualified forensic scientists in Europe who have ascertained its true provenance. With the help of modern forensic techniques, Edward’s ground-breaking discoveries provide conclusive answers to many of the most challenging mysteries surrounding the case.

Unfortunately however, Russell Edwards is an “over-sharer”

He loads his book, particularly the early chapters, with autobiographical information, including his own contentious family history and his past as a homeless teen and young adult. He even goes into very personal family traumas including multiple miscarriages. Much of this is irrelevant, tiresome and an over-share for someone just wanting to learn more about the Ripper murders.

It’s a shame, because he’s got a good story to tell. He’s identified Jack the Ripper by physical evidence obtained from the scene of one of his crimes. He links the shawl to one of the prime suspects, an Aaron Kosminksi. The chain of custody is not perfect, but the case for the shawl being the real deal is convincingly laid out. The case is well made- forensic examination, DNA testing of the shawl’s blood and semen stains, compared with the DNA of both victim and suspect via their living maternal line relatives.

In the end Edwards’ case is very compelling. He addresses the likelihood of contamination, he answers all questions about statistical relevance of the test results, he even proves the unlikely circumstance that this shawl managed to traverse the decades without ever seeing a washing machine. He can place it chronologically in the existing story, and makes a strong case for the fabric’s place of origin, how it came to the scene of the crime, and where it’s been in the intervening years.

I just wish he’d had a better editor to help him clean up his presentation.