Review: The Ripper Legacy… blood through the centuries
By Jim Alexander and Mark Bloodworth
There’s a cover that tells a tale; we’re in the territory of old Jack, a name drenched in blood, but the apple casts the tale further into the past, to the biblical beginning, a reminder of original sin. Sure this collection treads relatively familiar ground, but does so in sufficiently original fashion and with a good sense of confident storytelling, just the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from Jim Alexander’s writing by this stage.
Alan Moore, in describing From Hell, referred to Jack the Ripper as (I’m paraphrasing) an event that’s transcended reality into fiction and thus all stories are equally true, all the fictions are real. Here we have Alexander and Bloodworth’s version of the truth, typically bloody but touching on the incredible, that apple on the cover a hint that this tale of Red Jack is one that resonates forwards and backwards in time, the events of 1888 merely one representation of evil violence.
All is told here from the viewpoint of Raven Inc., paranormal detectives comprised variously of ex-FBI, paranormal researchers & historians, investigators, psychics and other interesting/damaged types. Yes, it’s Fringe/X-Files doing their bit to solve the legacy of Jack once and for all.
In the present day we see, in vivid, visceral, spare nothing detail, four murders, three confessions from three different men, all seemingly unconnected save for a terribly familiar M.O.
We see a man caught, claiming connection with Jack, madness surely? a connection across more than a century surely impossible? Yet somehow, impossible or not, the investigation uncovers more and more to support this claim.
This is Jack The Ripper as a force of evil, ever-present from those first human failings in the Garden, all throughout history, as we engage in a murderous join the dots, the force the connection between every vile act in history, inhabiting every serial killer, from the dark realities of Dahmer, Nielson and the rest to the fictional monsters, Bateman et al, psychopaths American and otherwise. Again, this blending of fictional and reality merely harking back to that idea of Red Jack being the superposition of all killers.
The investigation progresses, the present affecting the past, ripples in time stretching back to Abberline et al in 1888, an aged witness impossibly old claiming witness to the original killings now drawn back to the blood once more. Everything progressing, tension increasing, plot playing out.
There’s an important lesson for any book; how long do you give it before closing the covers and passing on it? The rule I tend to have is that at least a third of any work is essential to get that feel for a book. Here, the end of chapter 1 had things getting interesting as the various facets of the storyline came together. By the end of chapter 2 I was fully immersed in the events and by chapter 3 I couldn’t stop myself reading on if I wanted to. Now, given that The Ripper Legacy is very much the psychological thriller, I’d say couldn’t stop reading till the end tells you a lot.
Sure, it does have a tendency to degenerate into overly aware psycho-babble from random members of the cast in the final act where everyone seems all too well aware of the legacy of Jack. And yes, the whole evil as a force developing and changing through time has been done before, most successfully in my memory by Matt Wagner with the progression in Grendel. The difference with Grendel and The Ripper Legacy is one of tone and development rather than content so much, with Grendel the gradual realisation of evil as a force, a manifest presence was slowly revealed, the shock, the audacity of the idea quite breathtaking when realisation took hold. Here we get the idea delivered chapter one page one and it dilutes the strength of it somewhat…
However, even with those issues, it’s fundamentally a damn good psych thriller, well plotted, pace just right.
Artistically Bloodsworth certainly copes with the visceral nature of the tale, he’s aptly named in that respect. But outside of the blood and the guts on display, he’s competent and solid rather than spectacular. I find it a tad uninspiring and flat to be honest. But although it’s not artwork to set the work aflame it does cover all the bases well, the anatomy is solid, the storytelling spot on, serving the rhythm of the story, keeping the flow well.
The Ripper Legacy may not be the best thriller I’ve ever read, not to my eye, and as with any psychological thriller of this sort there’s a familiarity, reminders of prior ideas repeating, apt given the whole meta-fictional idea of Ripper-lore I suppose. But it does everything it needs to to tick the boxes for a really good psychological thriller, flowing really well, building the necessary ideas and keeping a slow, incremental build in the tension to create something gripping and involving, where the idea of evil infusing through time is well played to add to the sense of inevitability, any triumph of good over evil a mere temporary aberration in the natural order of things.
You can get hold of a copy of The Ripper Legacy at the Transfuzion site.