They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper
They All Love Jack is Bruce Robinson’s 800 page doorstop of an attempt to figure out what has baffled many: just who murdered (at least) five women in 1888? Who was Jack the Ripper? It started out as a £15 pub bet that Robinson couldn’t solve the mystery, made over a decade ago, but it is easy to see that it developed into an obsession.
Robinson’s writing is personal, engaging, and scathing; however his gonzo-esque style means that he has a tendency to ramble and sometimes the direction of the dialogue will abruptly lurch. A chapter focused on discussing a particular murder will end up containing a rant about the immorality of the Victorians and a handful of paragraphs, seemingly out of place, on Freemason archaeology.
One really has to jump on Robinson’s train of thought and hold on, as he obviously considers all these things relevant and in their proper place, which, given that this is an argument being made in support of a theory and not fiction, means that it must make sense to him, at least. And the immorality of the Victorians and Freemasonry are the heart of Robinson’s case, the target of his thrusts, joined on the chopping block with the rest of Ripperology.
It’s almost a shame that he felt the need to try to solve the case. As a criticism of an attack upon the Victorians, the related culture of Freemasonry, and self- declared Ripperologists, the text is powerful and merciless.
Robinson’s problem is that of many conspiracy theorists’; just because your argument makes sense doesn’t mean it’s right. Robinson constructs the theoretical framework within which his argument runs smoothly, however it comes short of persuading that this is what actually happened: There is a difference between what could have happened and what did, what makes sense and what is.
Robinson’s attempt to solve the case is a shame, not because it is unconvincing, but because it is, obviously, the point of this behemoth. Had it simply been a few hundred pages titled Why I hate the Victorians, and why you should too, then it would have been far more tolerable to read; as it stands, it is a task.
Approach it as a rational argument, and Robinson’s writing style may quickly obscure a clean reading; approach it as a quirky text with a sharp edge, something a little risqué, and all the Ripper stuff gets in the way. Which, unfortunately, leaves it somewhat unapproachable.