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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Jack the Theorist

Title: Jack the Theorist
Author: Jon Hartless
Page Count: 49 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Vagabondage Press
Genre: satire
Copy for review provided by the publisher in anticipation of an honest review:

Only one man dares to confront the meaning behind the crimes. Only one man sees through the tangled skein to the truth. Only one man knows the answers.

Or, at least, only one man thinks he knows the answers... Follow Professor Wolf, the world’s first Ripperologist, on his delusional journey into the world of the Ripper. Follow his long-suffering friend, Sir Arthur Smythe, who suspects that it will all end in tears.

Gasp at the revelations. Tremble at the truth. Wonder at the sanity of a mind that leaps from conspiracy to conspiracy without ever touching reality.

I haven't met anyone that hasn't had at least a passing interest in true crime stories- the more notorious, the better, more often than note. I think we as people find the details of those sorts of situations to be such a sharp contrast to what normally goes on in day to day life that it's as much a break from reality as any fiction story.

There's a line between morbid curiosity and frantic speculation though, and it's the crossing of this line that serves as the centerpiece of this story. Against the background of the mystery of Jack the Ripper, the tendency of people to create their own versions of reality regardless of any facts that may or may not be present is extrapolated out to show just how ridiculous the whole situation can become. And actually, when you think about it, this type of situation isn't so far off the radar of possibility- pick up any tabloid and you see facts being gleefully ignored in deference to speculation all over the place.

Did you ever have one of those friends that was always with you, but you couldn't for the life of you figure out why? Wolf is that kind of friend to Sir Arthur Smythe. Arthur overlooks Wolf's easily excitable personality and lack of need for facts to support his theories for awhile, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that being notorious is more important to Wolf than being accurate.

The underlying theme that the victims of the crimes in this case have taken a backseat to the sensationalism and gory details of the crimes is strong and memorable; we see this happen all the time in current news events today. When Arthur finds out Wolf's true role in the Ripper slayings and just how he maintained his role as top Ripperologist of the day, he's disappointed, but not totally surprised. As a reader, I felt the same way, and the commentary being offered on that sort of media frenzy was resonant.

This is a short book, funny at times, but with a strong message. It's not a true crime story or a detective story, but instead uses a real series of historical events to make a point. It's definitely worth a look if you're looking for something different from the usual crime and punishment fare.

Overall Rating:
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