One-Armed Jack: Uncovering the real Jack the Ripper by Sarah Bax Horton

I was kindly gifted a copy of ‘One-Armed Jack: Uncovering the real Jack the Ripper’ by Sarah Bax Horton, by the lovely Tandem Collective UK.

As someone who has a passion for history and loves a good mystery, this was a great book to have the chance to be on a readalong for. We have to all admit that we have probably heard of the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and there have been so many who have tried to work out exactly who this infamous character was (as the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ was penned by the media of the day). And the case has, of course, been hitting the headlines again in recent years as we look at reframing history to remove the sensationalisation of the crimes, while ensuring that the women are remembered for the real people they were, and not just as the victims of this figure. Hallie Rubenhold’s book ‘The Five’ starts this very important conversation, reframing that historical narrative to bring ‘her-story’ and not just ‘his-story’ to the world.

But I digress; let us return to ‘One-Armed Jack’. This book was an absolutely fascinating read, bringing us not just the history of ‘Jack the Ripper’, but also ensuring that the canonical five (just as Rubenhold did) have their story shared too (as well as others who may also have been the victim of Jack the Ripper when you look at the actions of such a serial killer).

I do not want to give spoilers to this true crime book as, realistically, it is still a thrilling read that brings us evidence that allows her to prove why exactly she (and others) believe that Hyam Hyams could well have been the man we know as ‘Jack the Ripper’. I found all this work and evidence incredibly interesting, and I can see exactly why this man may well have been in the frame. And, maybe just the lack of expertise in policing at the time – as we all know that things have to develop and improve – may have been the reason why he was never really discovered in Victorian England.

I find the study of Hyam Hyams as a figure intriguing in this book, and it becomes very thought-provoking when the experiences of his past are used as evidence as to why he may have committed such terrible crimes. Yet he would not have been the only person (sadly) in Victorian London who may have had such an experience. As his life goes on, you see that some of those of experiences would not be to unique to him – so, really, why do some chose one path and others a different one? It is easy to see why people have such a keen interest in true crime and those who commit it – but what this book does so well is to not glamourise it, which we know some media outlets have been accused of previously.

This book is one that I will definitely be encouraging people to read if they have an interest in this piece of history – the social history, as well as the particular story of Jack the Ripper. I think a clear case is made – with evidence – that Hyam Hyams could well have been the man that evaded the authorities for so long. However, it is clear that we will never really know; there is no way that anyone can tell us for certain – so maybe we will always have to have an open mind, and there may well be others who decide to investigate another figure.

But, for now, ‘One-Armed Jack’ is a book you should read if you’re looking for a well-researched and clearly laid out case that could potentially identify ‘Jack the Ripper’.

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