Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed – Patricia Cornwell


Portrait_of_a_Killer.car_Well, this was a long, gruesome slog.  In a word, the group found this book to be TEDIOUS.  A few of us didn’t finish it and the reasons given mostly concerned the pages and pages of discussions about watermarks.  Chapters, even, were given over to watermarks and who had what, when.

We agreed that we didn’t know too much about Jack the Ripper except that some guy was killing prostitutes in some kind of gruesome way and Jekyll and Hyde might be involved and a member of the Royal family and maybe a doctor.  The details of where, who, and (gulp) how were truly awful.

The book is actually an interesting premise.  A well-respected journalist, forensic pathologist, and best-selling author with buckets of money researches the available documents surrounding the Jack the Ripper case and decides Rickert is the one who done it.  And she even buys up a bunch of his art in her search for the truth.  Or at least her search for proof of her truth.  We had to admit that Cornwell was focused in her research, even if her presentation of the material could have used some organization and editing.

Her argument is compelling.  The man’s art is disturbing, his habits odd, the timing right.  But we got tired of the dark and dreary topic and the discussions about watermarks.  So yes, there was some skimming.  Particularly after the first half.  But it was thought-provoking.

Favorite? – The author.  Joan liked how she inserted herself into the narrative.  Joan also liked Warren, the poor head of Scotland Yard who brought in bloodhounds who ran amok in Hyde Park and who ended up quitting (or was he fired?)

Least favorite – Sickert.  Just a big psychopathic, self-centered weirdo.  Even if he didn’t do it, he was a big psychopathic, self-centered weirdo.

2 stars

A Drop of the Hard Stuff – Lawrence Block

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drop-of-the-hard-stuff-1-194x300Surprisingly, everyone really liked this book.  I say surprisingly because I thought it was a tad lackluster in the mystery department.  But it seems that our group didn’t care.  Lots of entertaining characters, a compelling story, and a logical mystery.  After the gap between reading the book and meeting, however, we could not, for the life of us, remember WHODUNIT.  So many books, so little memory…

It was an interesting look at the life of a recovering alcoholic, a man in his first year of sobriety and all the internal gyrations someone in that position goes through.  His knowledge of where and when AA meetings were to be fascinating.  The never-ending need to consciously not drink and the support in that community was interesting to see and it all felt very real.  The steps of the program was also interesting to learn about.  Those parts of the story stayed with me for many days after I finished it.  The ending?  Not so much.

The main character has bottomed out, but is slowly making his way back out of the hole and trying to solve a murder at the same time.  And it’s a murder that ties in with his ongoing sobriety journey, making that challenge even harder.

Most of the group thought the mystery was compelling, even though it really isn’t the main focus of the story.  This is the story of a man’s journey. 

This group does like interesting and entertaining characters.

Favorite characters:  Scudder, Jim Faber, his sponsor, Motorcycle Mark, the victim’s sponsor, Bobby, the albino black guy, the Dude, and the bartender

Least favorite characters: Jan, Steffens, High-Low Jack, the cause of all the problems.  But even so, I didn’t REALLY dislike these characters.  There wasn’t anything TOTALLY reprehensible about them.