The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper Summary
by Paul West

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The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Paul West has made a reputation for himself by attempting to penetrate the darker sides of humanity. In THE WOMEN OF WHITECHAPEL AND JACK THE RIPPER, West ventures into Victorian England and presents a society that is in decay. In his preface, he acknowledges the various sources that have given rise this novel. West’s premise is that Jack the Ripper was not a lone madman bent on random mass murder, but that the murders were carried out by a trio of individuals who were silencing specific victims in order to cover up a royal scandal. It is proposed that the Duke of Clarence fell in love with a girl from the slums of London and that their union produced a daughter. The girl, Annie Crook, worked as a model for England’s master Impressionist painter Walter Sickert.

As West presents life in Victorian England, there is much that is rotten .l He takes great pains to describe the life of the prostitutes of Whitechapel. Each of the victims-to-be is fleshed out in detail, as are some of their more illustrious customers. With the help of Sickert and a coachman by the name of Netley, Dr. William Gull kidnaps Annie Crook and performs a lobotomy on her in order to put an end to the affair. The doctor has a reputation for taking pleasure in experimenting on young women. To maintain the conspiracy of silence, Crook’s female friends are butchered on the back streets of London because they have dared to write letters to Queen Victoria concerning the liaison and the existence of a daughter. THE WOMEN OF WHITECHAPEL AND JACK THE RIPPER is a gloomy and gruesome read. West has written some spectacular sections, but he subject matter defeats him at every turn—or possibly it is his approach to the story that ultimately is flawed. This is a tortured tale that has been told in such lavish detail that the reader’s only response is to recoil in disgust.