January 25, 2009

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A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Jack the Ripper

Written by Rick Geary
Illustrated by Rick Geary
NBM

(I mentioned Geary's historical work a few days ago, so I thought I'd include a review of one of his works in that series today.)

This is a re-read for me, which I was originally going to just do a quick hit for, but after scanning a few pages (and with a Ripper book I read earlier in the year still fresh in my mind) I decided to give a it a full airing.

Geary has an entire series of books on Victorian murders, ranging from the Assassination of President Garfield to well, Jack the Ripper. They're done in a mock woodblock style that perfectly fits the time period in which he works. (That's why the book he did on J. Edgar Hoover was a bit jarring--the style feels out of place in the 20th Century, somehow. It's still great and you should read it, however.) Best of all, Geary takes the time to actually research his material--this is not a slap-dash job. (He lists, in addition to the book I read, 10 other sources plus his primary text.)

This time out, Geary uses the anonymous journals of a person closely related to the case as his guide to the still-unsolved ripper killings. Strikingly modern, the writer clearly notes the many mistakes of the police and the frequent desire to move along quickly, most likely due to the lack of real suspects and the nature of the people being killed (i.e. no one important). Geary is tacitly restrained in his drawings (it would have been so easy to draw gory details to show off his drawing chops) but gives enough of the facts to provide, via his source, a pretty good look at the Ripper murders.

The writing does fizzle out a bit towards the end, probably because the case was slipping from the public eye and journals tend to be related to things going on around the writer. However, he does speculate on the killer's identity, and I think, in the end, his guess is as good as the others I've heard.

Geary is a master storyteller, and I can't see anyone who reads this not liking this little graphic novel, or any of the others in the series.
Since this is a familiar crime, it's also probably the best place to start.