Patricia Cornwell’s crime mystery The Novel Ripper: The Hidden Life of Walter Sickert is a critically acclaimed piece of fiction. It’s an interesting expose of one of the most chilling serial murder cases in London during the 1880s. Cornwell has pending evidence that can be used to implicate one of the murder suspects, Sickert, who is the prime suspect. The book also includes the detective department, which was unable to solve the murders. There are some motivation hypotheses and convincing empirical proof that point to Sickert as the “Ripper.” About the fact that this was a century-old murder case, Cornwell made it her life’s job to crack it. The claim and major premises in Cornwell’s argument
In Cornwell’s, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper–case Closed, she believes that Sickert, who once was involved in painting the Winston Churchill portrait, is the only suspect and subsequent witness in the murders of Annie Chapman, Mary Ann Nichols, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly and Elizabeth Stride and perhaps up to 15 more victims in the 1880s (Cornwell 2002). Cornwell’s argues that Sickert’s psyche was one similar to that of a Jekyll and Hide character, that is, he was both charming and conceited at the same time. Her argument strongly suggests that Sickert’s character was duplicitous in nature and could be related to a childhood trauma. According to Cornwell’s Secrets of Crime Fiction Classics: Detecting the Delights of 21 Enduring Stories, her argument purports that there may have been repeated and excruciating surgeries for a fistula, whether it was the anus or the penis, is still unknown. She suggests that the surgery could have left him impotent or at the very least, may have made his sexual relations quite dysfunctional.
Cornwell further argues that Sickert’s relationship with his family may have served as motive for the killings. According to her, Sickert has an indifferent parents and rival siblings I addition to a contentious relationship with his mentor, James, whose engagement and subsequent marriage may have fueled his motive.
The role of scientific and forensic evidence in Cornwell’s argument and reliability
Cornwell includes forensic evidence in her argument. She uses DNA testing that involved the swabbing of the Sickert and Ripper-related envelopes and stamps. She also conducts forensic analysis by marching the paper and watermarks between Sickert and the Ripper letters. Furthermore, she conducts a handwriting inspection by comparing Sicker’s personal correspondence and letters from the Ripper.
Cornwell includes chilling paintings that show Sickert’s 1960s painting, Le Journal, that shows a woman wearing a tight necklace with her heard thrown back and her mouth wide open (Bryant). The photos are outstandingly similar to that of Eddowes with her neck cut open. Similarly, Sickert’s, Nuit dete; summer night; evokes Mary Kelly’s death bed scene. Despite the fact that one cannot convict a person of a crime on the basis of a painting, Sickert’s painting portray a magnitude of resemblance to the photos of the victims.
In regard to both Sickert’s and the Ripper’s letters, there is a strange doodle of characters within their text. This is observed on the postcard mailed to James Fraser, who at the time was the commissioner of the City of London police. The ripper drew a cartoon head with a cut-throat. This was just after the murder of Annie Chaman who had a throat and her abdomen silt. According to Patricia, the face of the cartoon was a resemblance of the Sickert doodle on a letter that was written in 1893 to the artist William Rothenstein.
Patricia’s analysis matched the paper that was used by Sickert to some of the letter that the Ripper sent to James. There were 3 Sickert letters and 2 Ripper ones that came from the paper run of just 24 sheets. According to her, both Sickert and the Ripper were both compulsive writers. However, at the time, the letters were not taken seriously and there was no mention of watermarks. Yet, a letter posted by the Ripper on October 31, 1888, had the same watermark of – Gurney Ivory Laid, as several of Sickert’s letters.
Cornwell further claims that the late picture of Joseph Gorman, who insisted that he was Sickert’s illegitimate son, said that the artist had confessed gory details about the Ripper to him. However, Gorman was dismissed as a fantasist. But Cornwell claims to have evidence of Gorman inheriting Sickert’s publishing royalties following the artist’s death in 1942. She discovered evidence in Joseph’s papers of a Euros 154.88 payment made to him by a publisher for a collection of Sickert’s writings (Bryant).
Despite the fact that the results are inconclusive on a personal level, given time, the passage is an antiquated means of evidence collection and the study and the contamination and disappearance of evidence, all give a compelling portrait when considered in totality. The forensic and scientific evidence against Sickert is strong, convincing and highly reliable.
Logical fallacies affecting Cornwell’s argument
There are a number of holes in her argument. For instance, Cornwell imputes facts that are of dubious relevance, for instance, she links the uncommon use of “ha ha” in the letters Rippert sent to Sickert through his friendship with James Whistler, who was known for saying “ha ha” (Bryant). Her account is not chronological and that makes it ill-suited for those that are not familiar with the case. In her work, she states the she sensed an entity, a terrifically negative energy that when invoked resulted I strange aberrations of physics (Cornwell 2014). This among other statements within the novel understate the quality of her work, on top of the insufficient evidence provided.
The reliability of Cornwell’s argument
Cornwell’s argument, despite limited, can be contested on theoretical grounds. Generally, the evidence provided is quite compelling, particularly, the scientific and forensic evidence (Cooper). However, her theory behind the case is not convincing enough to support her argument. As such, there are gaps in her work.
Cornwell’s arguments are a groundbreaking recap of one of history’s most notorious and hotly debated unsolved mysteries. Perhaps one of her most grounding aspects in her work of art is the depiction she gives of the portrayal of the socioeconomic influences to the day-to-day living in 1880s London; at a time when the deaths of the 5 victims were downplayed on the basis of their status as prostitutes. The author humanizes the victims. Cornwell’s knowledge around criminology and forensics is undoubtedly unrivaled and her passion and informed narration, stated with unwavering conviction, has the ability to tip the scales of justice once and for all.
Cornwell, Patricia. Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper–case Closed. Penguin, 2002. Print.
Cornwell, Patricia. “Postmortem, Patricia Cornwell.” Secrets of Crime Fiction Classics: Detecting the Delights of 21 Enduring Stories, 2014. Print.
Bryant, Tom. “Jack the Ripper Mystery Finally Solved as Patricia Cornwell Unmasks The Killer”. Mirror, 2017. Web. Accessed 25th April 2017.
Cooper, H. H. A. “A Review of “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed” Patricia Cornwell, New York: GP Putnam’s Sons (2002). Pp. 365+ bibliography+ index.” (2010): 271-277. Print.