For a Jack the Ripper enthusiast this is a wonderful piece of fiction exploring one of the more prominent suspects and naming the one that I think all the conspiracy theorists would love most of all. After all you couldn't make a better story than one with Royal scandal and the intervention of the Queen herself. For me however, the story doesn't flow very well and at times I had to force myself to stick with it, the author feels the need to explore every character in depth even the ones on the periphery of the story. More a depiction of events surrounding the Whitechapel murders than an attempt to engross the reader, the Ripper is revealed fairly early and it then becomes a focus on his character and the cover up that follows.
Queen Victoria’s grandson Prince Albert Victor has an affair with shop girl Annie Crook that results in an illegitimate child and marriage. The Queen is not overjoyed with this news and Prince Albert Victor’s new wife is locked up in an asylum for the insane or more accurately a prison. The child is left in the care of Mary Kelly, a prostitute, who with her friends attempts to blackmail the royal family. Queen Victoria is forced to take steps and calls on the Royal Physician, Sir William Gull, a respected surgeon and Mason, and instructs him to deal with the matter.
Alot of the story centres on Gull and his descent into madness, driven by a spiritual almost supernatural need which cannot be fully comprehended, he attempts to take his Masonic beliefs and the visions he has, to ascend to a level only he can see. This is the driving force of the story and not the identity or the hunt for Jack the Ripper. Gull's story is well written, captivating at times, laborious at others, for example Gull takes the coachman Nettley on a tour of the significant Masonic sites in London and explains each in turn, some good artwork is shown in this section but the trip lasts forever and becomes a little tedious.
The stories of the victims of Jack the Ripper are explored intimately, we see them struggle through life long before the murders, the threats of violence they face and how they deal with the constant need for money to survive. The author deals with the murders of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Kate Eddowes and Mary Kelly with a degree of respect for the victims, he doesn't dwell on their suffering but pays more detail to the ritualistic aspect of the mutilations after their death.
We never remember the names of the victims but Jack the Ripper is a name you will never forget...