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by Dave Yost
McFarland & Co., July 2008
218 pages
ISBN: 0786433183

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ripperologists may find some interest in David Yost's work ELIZABETH STRIDE AND JACK THE RIPPER: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE REPUTED THIRD VICTIM. I found it uneven and overpriced.

Elizabeth Stride was murdered at the height of the Ripper crimes, the first of the two women found dead on September 30. Her body showed very few of the typical mutilations. Something however, signalled that the murderer might have been scared off (which is why he needed to kill again that night). Others believe that she was, as Yost puts it, only a "reputed" victim who could have been killed by a copycat.

Certainly Yost is thorough. The first part of the book covers Elizabeth's birth in Sweden and chronicles what can be known about her movements, employment, emigration to England, marriages, and business ventures before she was famously slaughtered. This is necessarily a short section, and Yost pads out the bare facts with over-lyrical writing for example, children are never merely born, they "increase the family" or "come into" their parent's lives. He also makes a series of sweeping statements about Elizabeth's possible thoughts and motivations that I find unconvincing and indefensible, especially when Elizabeth bears all the blame for her marriages going sour, up to the classic "she must have driven him to it" rebuttal of her complaints that one of her husbands was abusive.

In addition, Yost spends a lot of time detailing the crimes happening in England generally in the era, with an odd emphasis on Fenian terrorist attacks that seems utterly out of place in a story about Swedish Elizabeth Stride.

The second and largest part of the book is comprised of multi-page-long quotations from newspaper articles and official inquiries. After continuing the romance-tinged writing Elizabeth never dies on September 30, she is always slaughtered on "the last day of September" Yost gets out of the way and lets the people of the time tell their own story. As a consequence, this is the best part.

The final section is Yost's analysis of the witnesses, the evidence, and the theories of the murder, including tables showing the discrepancies between various accounts in a simple-to-compare form.

All in all, ELIZABETH STRIDE AND JACK THE RIPPER should have been a riveting read, but I cannot recommend it for two reasons. The first is that the best part is the first-person accounts, which can be found in any number of other Ripper books. The second and even larger objection is the price. I have gotten to the point where I consider a hardback to be overpriced if it wants $20 or more for fewer than 350 pages. ELIZABETH STRIDE AND JACK THE RIPPER is a trade paperback of a mere 218 pages that commands a whopping $40 price tag. At that price, it probably isn't worth it for any but a dedicated Ripperologist who must have a complete collection.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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