Jack the Ripper – was he one of a pair?
The unsolved case of Jack the Ripper has long interested me, which is why I chose “Mayhem” by Sarah Pinborough to read, as I thought it was about that. In actual fact, although Jack is referenced, the book is more about the other unsolved (true) murders of the same time, the Rainham murders.
It was quite coincidental as I’d recently read about these crimes, where multiple dismembered corpses where found in London. There are theories that Rainham and Jack were the same person, and others feel they were two separate people, or perhaps a competing “team”.
The main character in ‘Mayhem” is Dr Thomas Bond who is the police surgeon for New Scotland Yard in 1889, and has worked on the Jack the Ripper cases. It begins with part of a corpse being found in the foundations of the new police building, seemingly without any witnesses. This is not the first case – several dismembered human parts have been found in the Thames River recently.. Many think it must be Jack the Ripper, but Dr Bond feels that the crimes have been committed by two separate people, and that Jack pales in comparision to this new evildoer.
Plagued by insomnia brought on by the horrors of Jack, Dr Bond turns to the opium dens in Whitechapel for some release, where he meets a strange Polish priest who is tracking an evil being called an Upir. The legend is that the Upir lives in a river until it can possess a body and gradually take control of it – using the host to commit murder for the purpose of consuming flesh. Soon unstable Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski joins their group – he has suffered predictive visions all his life and can sense the growing evil in London.
Meanwhile, the police are no closer to solving either case. Suspicion falls on Kosminski – after all, he is viewed as mad – and eventually even on the Doctor himself when it becomes known that he is visiting Whitechapel late at night. Can they identify the Upir and stop it before the situation escalates out of control, or will the police pin these crimes on one of their group?
I have to admit that it took me three attempts to finish this book. Originally I couldn’t get past the first few chapters, due to the extremely gory descriptions. But after that, it became quite engrossing and the character development was very well done. During the time I was reading it, news was also released that someone had “proven” that Kosminski was in fact, Jack the Ripper, using DNA evidence found on an old shawl once possessed by a ripper victim. Which gave me more incentive to read on, to see what this book said about Kosminski. Personally, I feel that such a claim cannot be made – really, all that proves is that a piece of material that was present at the crime scene, was also present at a time when Kosminski may have had “relations” with a prostitute. The two events did not necessarily occur at the same time! But that is a story for another, soon to be released, book I believe.