cover image The Big Book of Jack the Ripper

The Big Book of Jack the Ripper

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $25 trade paper (864p) ISBN 978-1-101-97113-0

Penzler’s ambitious sixth Big Book (after 2015’s The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories) appropriately deviates from the template of earlier volumes, given its focus on a real-life criminal. The opening section, “The True Story,” gathers primary sources, like witness statements and autopsy reports, contemporary newspaper accounts of the murders, and George Bernard Shaw’s legendary letter to the editor of the Star newspaper decrying the horrific living conditions in Whitechapel. The bulk of the book provides a comprehensive selection of Ripper-inspired fiction, including such well-known works as Marie Belloc Lowndes’s “The Lodger” (presented in both its original short story form and later novel version) and Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.” But as with previous Big Books, Penzler’s dogged research has enabled him to include undeservedly obscure stories as well, such as R. Chetwynd-Hayes’s creepy “The Gatecrasher” and Isak Dinesen’s “The Uncertain Heiress.” High-quality tales original to this volume, from such 21st-century masters as Daniel Stashower, Lyndsay Faye, and Jeffery Deaver, are another bonus. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Oct.)