The Ripper Secret, by James Becker

Seven stars

Popular author James Becker (one of his many pseudonyms) brings readers an interesting take on the Jack the Ripper murders, injecting his own speculation into this piece of fiction. While traveling through Jerusalem in 1870, Charles Warren comes upon a spectacular find that will surely flourish in the right company. However, this menorah is anything but an innocent artefact, particularly when another man, Alexei Pedachenko, had hoped to take it for himself. Fast-forward to the streets of London in 1888, where Pedachenko has been able to catch up to Warren, who is now a commissioner with the Metropolitan Police. Rather than simply ask for the menorah, Pedachenko wishes to create havoc for the man who caused him such distress. After reading about the murder of a prostitute on the streets of Whitechapel, Pedachenko devises a plan that will not only get him the sacred menorah, but also push Warren out of his job. While penning notes to Warren under an alias, Pedachenko shows that he is serious, by killing women in the dead of night and leaving mocking notes. Warren is aware what is going on, but refuses o budge. As the spring turns to summer, the bodies continue and Warren is racked with guilt, but still unable to find it within himself to cede the treasured find. Pedachenko is happy to let the blood flow under the guise of Jack the Ripper, masking his crimes with all sorts of errant clues, all in the hopes of pushing Warren to the brink. It will be a game of cat and mouse, though Pedachenko shows no hint at ending his spree and Warren must decide how to retaliate. An interesting bit of fiction, which allows Becker to entertain rather than solely educate. Those who want a quick read may enjoy this book for its entertainment value.

Unsolved crimes are always fun to think about and James Becker has added a little fuel to the fire. While neither purporting to have evidence about Jack the Ripper, nor wanting to discount much of the history that has been created, Becker develops this piece of fiction to suit his own needs and entertain the reader in equal measure. Charles Warren is a decent character, a man whose stubbornness and cowardice fuel a string of murders throughout 1888. While he watches London go mad with worry, he sits on the one thing that could stop the killings, waiting this murderer out while investigating through official channels. Alexei Pedachenko is a much more interesting character, seemingly fuelled by the desire for a sacred item and yet turning to murder to get it for himself. Both men offer an interesting push and pull, keeping the story moving without being all that sensational in their own right. The story was decent and full of what one presumes are factual bits of information about the killings. Becker has done well to educate the reader as they make their way through the story. That being said, I was a little put off that the idea of the Jack the Ripper murders surrounded a menorah and that revenge was the sole rationale behind it all, though I suppose stranger things have come to pass when it comes to motives. While surely not one of Becker’s stronger novels, it was a quick read and allowed me to fill some time between more stimulating undertakings.

Kudos, Mr. Becker, for a decent book that educates and entertains. I may have to look into another of your ‘alternate history’ stories, though might wait a bit before getting too committed to that idea.

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