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Interpreting the Ripper Letters (Hardback)

Missed Clues and Reflections on Victorian Society

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime > Jack the Ripper World History > UK & Ireland > England > London

By M J Trow
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 182
Illustrations: 16
ISBN: 9781526739292
Published: 30th May 2019



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In the autumn of 1888, a series of grisly murders took place in Whitechapel in London’s East End, the Abyss, the Ghetto, the City of Eternal Night. The Whitechapel murderer, arguably the first of his kind, was never caught but the killings gave rise to the best known pen-name in criminal history – Jack the Ripper.

The Whitechapel killer was terrifyingly real but Jack was the creation of Fleet Street, the gallows humour of a newspaper hack whose sole aim in life was to sell newspapers. And where the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, with its ‘trade name’ signature led, thousands followed.

This book is not about the world’s first serial killer but about the sick, the perverted, the twisted souls who put pen to paper purporting to be the killer or suggested ever more lurid ways in which he could be caught. Innocent men were put in the frame by Victorian trouble-makers who would be perfectly at home with today’s Internet trolls, pointing cruel fingers in almost perfect anonymity.

The book takes the lid off Victorian mindsets, exposing a dark and unnatural place as topsy-turvy as that inhabited by the killer himself.

This is a book that presents an intriguing view of the most famous serial killer case in history, and an insight into the era that created both the killings, and the subsequent myth-making.

Read the full review here


The book is to the point and not rambling and that is a great attribute when there are so many books available not just on the murders, but also on just the letters alone. If I were developing a ‘Ripper’ library from scratch, this would be a good book to add to cover the subject of the infamous Jack the Ripper correspondence. Recommended read.

Read the full review here

For the Love of Books

As featured in

Sherlock Holmes Society

As featured by

Ripperologist, October 2019

Headline Story!

Article: 'Isle of Wight author and historian, MJ Trow, releases latest Ripperology book' as featured by

OnTheWight, 16th August 2019 - words by Sally Perry

Here we have one of the few books dedicated to those communications, and it’s a welcome change from the usual suspect-based outings.

Saucy Jacky

I couldn’t recommend this book enough! Whether you are interested in serial killers as a whole, Jack the Ripper specifically or just want a more accurate portrayal of victorian police work, this book is AMAZING!

I definitely rate this book 5/5

Read the full review here

Dainty Beth

MJ Trow is an informed and authoritative author on the Whitechapel murders, which, if it were not for these letters, would never be known as the work of 'Jack the Ripper'. He takes a very substantial sample of the letters and helpfully categorises them into groups. He also draws conclusions from studies into more modern serial killers, often in America. Many murder enquiries generate letters from the public, and the police are well used to disregarding those that are written by the deranged. Every so often, however, as happened with the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, a hoax generates enormous public interest and distorts the way that police enquiries are conducted. In this case the police thought that identifying the handwriting of the first 'Dear Boss' letter and a postcard would help to trace the murderer and publicised them in order to trace the person(s) who wrote them. This spawned many other letters. There is a fair conclusion about the main suspect for writing the 'Dear Boss' letter received on 27 October 1888. The postcard mentioning the 'double event' was sent through the post and received by the Central News Agency very soon after two women were murdered within an hour or so of each other before newspapers had published details of them. Some of the letters may well have been written by the same hand. In one case, a kidney, believed at the time to be human, was enclosed. The letters have inevitably become part of the modern speculation about these murders. Some will not agree about conclusions drawn in this book, but it deserves its place amongst those who aim to shed light on Victorian Whitechapel and the grisly crimes that took place there.

Alan Moss. 5 Star Amazon review.

I did find this book to be extremely informative and well written and also very well researched. I think if you have any sort of interest in learning about Jack the Ripper, this is definitely a book you should read. Not only will you be more informed of more of the letters, but also learn more about the media in the Victorian era and just how difficult it was for the police to actually hunt down and catch Jack the Ripper. People would be writing letters saying who they think it is because someone acted slightly suspiciously, or people would be writing fake letters to their neighbours for a laugh but these letters would be handed into the police because of the threats they contain. The whole situation was incredible and the frenzy it caused all over the world to me was shocking as I just wasn’t expecting it to be so well known worldwide before the internet and social media. This book is very interesting and I do recommend it to anyone interested in Jack the Ripper.

Laura Caldwell, Life and Tea, May 2019

About M J Trow

M.J. Trow is the author of nearly 100 books covering crime fiction, true crime and historical biography. He is a military historian by training, lectures extensively in the UK and overseas, and has appeared regularly on the History and Discovery Channels. He can be heard in podcasts on all the usual platforms, both as a guest and the main presenter on both historical and true crime subjects. He lives in the Isle of Wight.

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