In the course of this seriously epic volume, editor Otto Penzler gives us just about every drop of ink we could possibly want concerning Jack the Ripper. It’s over 800 pages involving all manner of tales dedicated to Jack and his horrific deeds. Over 100 of those pages involve details about the crimes that made Jack famous and some speculation on who the killer may have actually been. Peter Underwood’s essay “Who Was Jack the Ripper” is an intensely compelling work that Ripperphiles have likely run up against before; Stephen Hunter’s brand-new essay “Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick” offers more of the same.

The rest of the material represents a meaty collection of voices—Isak Dinesen rubs shoulders with Jeffrey Deaver, Thomas Burke with Hunter. Some of the tales are new; Deaver, Anne Perry and Loren D. Estleman deliver fresh stories amid some pieces of an earlier vintage. It’s entirely possible that many of the stories here are new to someone just picking up the volume, allowing Marie Belloc Lowndes’s classic The Lodger to find a wealth of new eyes, and voices such as Cleveland Moffett to gain new fans.

The Lodger is one of three full-length novels featured in the anthology, and it may be the best of the three. Published in 1913, the book was eventually adapted to the screen by Alfred Hitchcock and who better to bring this truly frightening (and thoroughly British) work to life? Reading it here reminds us of the mastery Belloc Lowndes had over the language, the way she could keep us turning the pages, and why it captured the imagination of its audience across several adaptations for both stage and screen. The other two novels? Well, one could do worse than Ellery Queen’s Sherlock Holmes/Ripper saga A Study in Terror, a work that may make you want to sleep with the lights on, and Boris Akunin’s The Decorator. Akunin may be a new name to some but his skill, imagination and exacting writing won’t keep him a stranger for long.

Deaver’s “A Matter of Blood” reads as fast and frightening as one of his well-plotted and brilliantly breathtaking novels. Estleman’s “G.I. Jack: A Four Horsemen Story” takes us to Detroit where a Jack-like character raises all kinds of hell while Daniel Stashower examines the problem of novices poking around the legacy of Jack the Knife.
Some of the stories owe a closer debt to each other than you might first realize or imagine: Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” is paired with “A Toy for Juliette,” its sequel, and Harlan Ellison’s continuation of the second idea, “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World,” also gets inclusion. The connections the stories make are deeply illuminating. Others, such as Patrice Chaplin’s “By Flower and Dean Street” and Ray Russell’s “Sagittarius” are no less exiting and earn their place in the collection within a sentence or two.

Writers are still finding different angles to this story, different things to stay and different ways to imagine Jack. Since his story remains one of the great unknowns in history, we are free to explore and imagine, and the authors who do just that manage to bend time, space, fact and fiction in ways that will delight the hardcore horror reader or those seeking to probe this legendary case for just one more shred of information.

The book announces itself as “The most complete compendium of Jack the Ripper lore ever assembled,” and one has little reason to think there has ever been a volume to compete with it. Really, how much more Jack the Ripper could one person need? Dynamic and fantastic, this is the horror and crime collection to have right now.

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