My Bookshelf

Book Review: I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date for this Edition: 2015

Pages: 298

Rating: 3.5 / 10

“Here is the message I deliver for you to contemplate. I am anarchy. I am fear. I am carnage, slaughter, destruction for its own sake. I will remind you: It is your vanity to believe you have come so far and left me behind. You will never leave me behind. Don’t you see it yet? I am you.” – Stephen Hunter, I Ripper

Has anyone caught a glimpse of the trailer for ABC’s new show “Time after Time?” In the show, H.G. Wells builds a time machine that Jack the Ripper uses to escape into the 21st century. The rest of the episodes are basically a cat-mouse chase to return the Ripper back to his own time.

These “Time after Time” trailers are the only reason why I thought I would crack open Stephen Hunter’s book I, Ripper. I was mostly curious to see how an author could create a novel based on Jack the Ripper. I guess I was expecting some kind of potluck recipe of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” mixed with Hannibal Lecter (minus the cannibalism) with a few bits of Sherlock Holmes…

Yea,..that was not the case.

Quick blurb on the story line:

The novel is structured around the interweaving of journal entries by Jack the Ripper and an Irish journalist who investigated the case.

…and that sentence really covers the whole novel.


I’ll admit that this book can really be stored in my library as: DNF or “Did Not Finish.”  At page 204, I was torn between my need to finish reading a book that I had started and my reluctance to flip another page.

You know when you’re riding a bike up a steep hill and you reach a point where if you don’t start recruiting some more mitochondria to pedal faster then you’ll end up rolling back to the bottom? That is how I felt towards the end of this book. I did not feel like there was enough “oomph” or suspense woven in the novel to get me through the pages. Once I hit page 204, I had depleted my attention span power-pack with no sight of the Energizer bunny to restore it…

From history, we know that Jack the Ripper murdered 5 women. This book presented just that: murder 1, murder 2, murder 3, murder 4…. etc. with a few intermissions of commentary from the Irish journalist. I am not saying, “Oh, bring on the gore!”.. No. This is a real life account we’re talking about and real murders. But, I have read other historical fiction novels that somehow kept the ball rolling throughout the book (e.g. Outlander, The Nightingale,…).

There was the promise of a plot twist planted early in the story; however, I don’t know if it is due to my vast accumulation of hours spent watching every movie made since my first birthday, providing me with the ability to analyze a story plot from scene one, but I correctly hypothesized the “plot twist” without even reaching the last page.

Bits of saving grace:

1. Although the story seemed to be a tad short of a thriller, Stephen Hunter’s use of words (including sentence structure) provided the only trace of espresso shot needed to keep my attention span moving on towards the following pages…

“That indifference, plus my customary greed and ambition, got the best of my low character; I had signed on to ride the train as far as it would take me, and damnation to all crushed beneath its progress. I had no idea how far that would be.” – Stephen Hunter, I Ripper

2. The amount of gruesome detail and historical content included in the story succeeded in causing my stomach to churn a few times – a response, of course, only possible through good writing.

Recommendation Diagnosis:

I am not one to tell someone “do not read this book.” I am well aware of the fact that we all have differing opinions about what makes a book “good.” So, I will simply say, “Read at your own risk.”

Now, a clip from ABC’s “Time after Time” trailer:


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