Historical Fiction, Paranormal/Supernatural

A Bloody Good Read

When the worlds of Jack the Ripper and the Elephant Man collide, there’s no shortage of gore, ghosts and . . . good deeds?

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

In 1888 London, Evelyn Fallow has seen her fair share of hardship. Orphaned and badly facially disfigured from her work in a match factory with poisonous phosphorus, the seventeen year-old approaches the matron at London Hospital for a job as a nurse. While the matron refuses her request, she offers Evelyn the job of maid for the hospital’s most unusual patient, Joseph Merrick, a man who is terribly deformed and commonly known as the “Elephant Man.” Desperate to get off of London’s tough and unforgiving streets, Evelyn accepts and gradually begins to befriend her benevolent charge.

Drawing of woman with “phossy jaw,” a condition common to women working with white phosphorus in a match factory in the 19th century.
Joseph Merrick, also known as the “Elephant Man.”

It is because of Mr. Merrick’s kindness that Evelyn believes ghosts begin to appear to him at night, desperate to take advantage of his tender heart. These aren’t just any ghosts, however. They are the ghosts of the victims of “Leather Apron,” also known as “Jack the Ripper.” These five spirits, Whitechapel prostitutes in life, are deeply haunted by unfinished business, and appear in Mr. Merrick’s room each night at precisely the time their lives were taken. The stress of the repeated and horrifying visits take a toll on the Elephant Man’s life, and Evelyn forces herself to return to London’s dangerous streets to help put the ghosts’ souls to rest.

Part historical fiction, part paranormal thriller, A Taste for Monsters is dark, suspenseful, and divine! Evelyn is a daring and tortured main character, and Mr. Merrick is especially memorable for his charity regardless of his limitations. Matthew J. Kirby has an interesting take on the identity of Jack the Ripper, too. This book is so worth the read and a great choice for anyone who enjoyed the 2017-18 Gateway Nominee, A Madness So Discreet.

Budding Ripperologists

I was only a few chapters into this book when I knew I wanted to host a Jack the Ripper documentary movie marathon as a #plotdrivenlife experience. I posted a “Who wants to join me?” message on Facebook, and I couldn’t believe how many of my friends were interested in Jack the Ripper!

So, this past Saturday, seven of us “Ripper Enthusiasts” met at my house to enjoy some treats and watch three documentaries with very different theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. The first, a National Geographic production borrowed from the public library called Finding Jack the Ripper suggests the killer was a German sailor who was caught after a murder in New York City. While none of us bought this theory, this film includes digital autopsies of the Ripper’s victims to help viewers understand the magnitude of the victims’ injuries as well as how the killer’s violence escalated.

What is a Jack the Ripper party without a creepy mannequin, cupcakes with bloody bone sprinkles and blood-spattered decorations?

The second film, available through Netflix, was entitled, Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect. It tries to prove that Frederick Bailey Deeming who murdered two of his wives and four of his children was also responsible for the Ripper murders. Deeming was in London during the time of the murders, had motive to kill prostitutes and shared killing rituals with the Ripper. It’s difficult to believe Deeming is Jack the Ripper because he lacked the skills that seem necessary to remove organs swiftly and precisely. Still, he is a strong suspect.

Wearing our top hats for the occasion. Clockwise: Mike and me, Shannon and me, Missy, Mernie and Brooke, and Shawn.

Finally, we watched Unmasking Jack the Ripper on YouTube, and I think we all liked this one best. The film provides detailed information about the living conditions in Whitechapel during the late 1800s, explaining why so many women were driven into prostitution. While the film doesn’t strive to convince viewers of the killer’s identity, it does make a strong case that Aaron Kosminski, a Polish barber, was Jack the Ripper. The film suggests a witness identified Kosminski and that two of the lead murder investigators believed him to be guilty of the heinous crimes. I’m not ruling him out!

There are other documentaries on my list to watch as there seems to be plenty of theories about Jack the Ripper’s identity. I’m especially interested in a series called American Ripper which suggests H.H. Holmes, the notorious killer featured in Erik Larson’s nonfiction book, The Devil in the White City, is Jack the Ripper. Thanks for the series recommendation, Shawn and Shannon!

By watching these documentaries which often include graphic images, I was able to better imagine the ghosts of the murdered women Matthew J. Kirby animates in A Taste for Monsters. These spirits haunt Evelyn and Joseph with their grisly wounds on full display, and I now fully understand why the ghosts’ presence was so agonizing for Joseph and alarming for Evelyn. This #plotdrivenlife experience enhanced my reading of Kirby’s book and made for an entertaining evening with friends!

Do you have a different Jack the Ripper theory? Please share in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

~Kelly

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Bloody Good Read

  1. So bummed I didn’t get to go! Another loose fictional connection to Jack the Ripper you might want to read is in the Monstromologist series by Rick Yancey. Again, a very small loose connection but the audio books are worth every bit of a listen.

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