Will the real Mary Kelly…?

12 September 2010

There’s been a lot of interest in Fiona Rule’s guest blog post about Mary Jane Kelly, which is great as it is a subject that really fascinates me. As part of the research for my novel, I have been reading a book by Christopher Scott called Will the Real Mary Kelly…? which takes a detailed look at the enigma and many mysteries that surround the Ripper’s fifth (and probably final) victim and also charts the author’s exhaustive searches through the official records as he hunts for the true identity of Mary Jane Kelly.

It’s a brilliant read but definitely not one for someone who is a newbie to the whole Jack the Ripper thing as it doesn’t go into the background of his crimes much and there is little discussion of the other victims. It’s really a book for Ripperologists who already know the background and are looking for a detailed and in depth discussion of Mary Kelly and the circumstances of her life and murder.

It’s not a long book and there are no illustrations (this was a good thing but I would have appreciated a map of Whitechapel in 1888 and maybe a plan of Miller’s Court) but the amount of information that it contains is astonishing, even if it explores details that perhaps one would rather it didn’t at times! I read it late at night and had to leave my bedside lamp on while I slept, and even then I had an uneasy night!

I really enjoyed Scott’s explanations about his searches for Mary Jane Kelly, whose identity remains elusive even now. It may seem like somewhat too obsessive to some, but I really appreciated the amount of work that he has put into it. I was also very touched by the search he did for Mary’s boyfriend, Joe which raised the probability that he married soon after her murder and moved to Kent, where he had a daughter.

I’ve never liked the theory that it was Joe who murdered her and am really glad that the poor man seems to left the East End with all its terrible memories, settled down and had a happy life after all. I can’t bear to look at the photograph of Mary Jane that was taken on the afternoon of the 9th November, so can’t imagine how he must have felt.

In summary, therefore this is a great book for anyone who is very interested in the Jack the Ripper case and keen to know more about his most infamous murder, although I think that ultimately it raises more questions than it answers, simply because of the wealth of detail within its pages.

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