What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper - Paula Marantz Cohen

Jack the Ripper is one of the most intriguing stories of the 19th century and one of the most written about.  What Alice Knew is a broody, atmospheric novel about Jack the Ripper that lets you feel the London fog curling around you.


The story revolves around Henry, William and Alice James. I knew about Henry James of course, having read The Turn of the Screw but I knew nothing about his family.  William, his brother, was a professor at Harvard and Alice, his sister, was an invalid living in London at the time.  William has been called in to help Scotland Yard with the Ripper case because they felt his studies in psychology made him a bit of an expert about human nature. Alice feels she can be as helpful to the case as he can be.


As William investigates, he includes his siblings in what he learns and they, in turn, help his investigation as it runs through some of the most celebrated sections of London society.   The relationship between these 3 is what drives the book.


Being about Jack the Ripper, this is obviously not a cozy mystery.  This is a psychological study into the lives of not just the Ripper, but also the James siblings.  It was intriguing enough to me that I took the time to look up Alice and read more about her. The book also has graphic descriptions of the Ripper's victims that not all readers will care for. 


If you like Jack the Ripper stories, this is a good one.  If you like your mysteries dark and brooding, this one is.  Settle in with a cup of Earl Grey and enjoy!