Check out my review of KNIFE’S TELL, Daniel Dark’s wildly unique take on Jack the Ripper:
When an author tackles as well-known and morbidly fascinating a subject as Jack the Ripper, they face the daunting task of covering very familiar territory in a compelling and unique way.
In Knife’s Tell, author Daniel Dark, who is steeped in Victorian-era culture and cuisine, does exactly that, exploring the intriguing question of the psychological motivations that propel a successful London doctor into murderous madness.
Dark’s story takes place before the infamous string of unsolved murders of women started in April 1888, before Jack the Ripper earned his name by targeting and mutilating prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London’s impoverished and crime-infested East End.
The good doctor, who specializes in treating women, is snobbish and domineering. He craves control, is at ease in the clubby environs of the upper class and is a drug addict in an era where narcotics in tonics and patent medicines were a commonplace.
He is also inexorably drawn to the dangers and fleshly corruption of crime-infested Whitechapel, its streetwalkers and back-alley bawds, its pinch purses, brutish robbers and casual murderers.
With a blade in his cane, he deliberately poses as an easy mark, a well-off pigeon slumming and ripe for the taking. When they start to strike, he’s faster and deadlier. With every foray, he draws ever closer to becoming the shadowy man with the knife who haunts his dreams while also penetrating the hidden network of criminals who rule Whitechapel.
In marked contrast to his secret life, the doctor also serves as a forensics expert and medical examiner to police whose investigations include some of his victims. With the discipline of a mad genius, he is utterly compartmentalized, able to serve two masters — the law and his inner demons.
Dark’s story is also redolent with psycho-sexual drama and explicit carnal gamesmanship and dominance between the doctor and four ravishing women. This is such a strong sub-plot that it could very well mark the beginnings of a new sub-genre — horr-otica. Not the first time this phrase has been used.
Ripper aficionados should welcome Knife’s Tell to the fold for its prequel approach and its exploration of the psychological motivations of their favorite serial killer before the spree that earned this still anonymous killer his nickname. It’s a well-told tale that even those who aren’t steeped in Ripperology can savor and enjoy.