November 19, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Discovery, the Investigation, the Debate

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A little more than a century ago, someone eviscerated five prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London. Though suspects abounded — among them, Queen Victoria’s grandson — the case of Jack the Ripper was never solved. Until now? A diary made public by a former scrap-metal dealer from Liverpool purportedly reveals the killer to be a merchant named James Maybrick. But many — including Warner Books, which bought and then decided not to publish the manuscript — have deemed the document a fraud. Robert Smith, the English publisher, cautiously advises each reader to “decide for yourself.” However, it’s not that easy. The body of the book, an elaborate, well- researched effort to paint Maybrick as the killer, can be entertaining but ultimately raises as many questions as it answers. Then there is the diary itself, a dull piece of work (despite the odd reference to cannibalism) that lacks any real revelations about the murders. But one thing is certain: the thrill that amateur detectives will get from The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Discovery, The Investigation, The Debate comparing notes, deciphering bloody initials, and staring at photos of Maybrick as they try to glean the answers from his inscrutable mug. B

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