In two earlier posts I discussed two books about Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow's The Jack the Ripper and Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History. In this post I want to say something about Philip Sugden's The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. I suggest, though, that you read the earlier posts before reading this one.
I got the 2002 revised edition of Sugden's book through my local library, so, once again, my copy is a little beaten up. But these photos of the cover and the table of contents will give you an idea of what to expect.
First of all, hallelujah, Sugden's book contains maps! This addresses one of the main complaints that I have about Rumbelow's and Begg's books. At the very beginning of the book you'll find a general map of the Whitechapel Murders. Here's a photo of it.
As you work through Sugden's account, you'll find smaller maps relating to each individual murder.
Sugden's book is crammed with noticeably more detail than either Rumbelow's and Begg's books. So the maps are a great aid to understanding his reconstructions of the events. For this reason alone, I prefer his book to Rumbelow's and Begg's.
Sugden's book contains extensive notes to document his claims. He clearly did an enormous amount of digging. Unfortunately, however, there is no bibliography, although there is a long list of archival sources. It's not that I can't live without a bibliography, but it would be useful to have one.
One thing that differentiates Sugden's book from Rumbelow's or Begg's is that Sugden writes very little about the social history of the East End. Instead, he concentrates on the murders, and since his book runs to 500 pages, he provides a mountain of factual research and documentation. Sometimes it's a challenge to work through all of it, but ultimately it proves to be worthwhile. I admit, though, that some readers might find the level of detail overwhelming. In that case, Rumbelow's book might be a better choice, since even Begg's book is fairly heavy reading at times.
As to the identity of Jack the Ripper, Sugden regards Montague John Druitt, Aaron Kosminksi, Michael Ostrog, and George Chapman as the most likely suspects. He exonerates, as far as he is concerned, Druitt, Kosminksi, and Ostrog. He considers Chapman the best candidate, that is to say, the least unlikely suspect, and judiciously concludes that the case against him has not been proven (which, Sugden is careful to point out, is not the same as saying that Chapman should be considered innocent).
Of the three books, I like Sugden's the best, although it is certainly the most demanding because of its length and attention to detail. Readers should keep that in mind when trying to decide which of the three to read.