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Old April 12th, 2015, 05:11 PM   #1
Lemonjelly
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Join Date: Jan 2011
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Default April 2015

By Ear and Eyes - Karyo Magellan

I've had this book for over 3 years, sat amongst the many books (Ripper & non-Ripper!) that fill my bookshelves. I can't recall what introduced me first to this book - possibly a late night search of the web. But I can recall feeling it would be an interesting read.

I am glad I acquired it. I don't recall much discussion of this book (but there again, I'm an occasional visitor/poster & tend to read more than post). I'm surprised by that. Magellan doesn't go via a traditional route in his examination of the whitechapel murders. Indeed, the book reads in parts like an exceptionally long essay that got a bit out of control. Dry in places, but generally interesting.

Initially the focus of the book is to make distinctions regarding the use of primary & secondary sources, and how to assess such sources, and the text reads in a very scholarly/methodical manner. I suspect the book was very meticulously planned.
Magellan focusses a lot more on details of the specific injuries carried out in a number of the whitechapel murders occurring between those of Tabram to Coles. I am assuming that Magellan has some form of medical/forensics background in order to examine in a bit of a cold case style manner. The idea is to pick out commonalities between the murders, and to identify which women are likely to have been slain by the same hand. Much of how the book is written in these chapters is very similar.

It is, in my opinion really well done. This lay man at least gained a fresh perspective on specifics of each murder. The tables Magellan includes for comparison are very interesting to examine too, and there is much food for thought there.
Without giving too much away, Magellan doesn't stick with the canonical five being the only murders carried out by a serial killer/JtR. Whether you agree or not, it is difficult to argue that Magellans conclusion(s) don't warrant further investigation/reappraisal.
Magellan also examines the witness testimonies (or at least some of them) in a relatively new manner (again to this lay person at least). Of huge interest to me here is the rather convincing manner that he places a large question mark over how so many place great emphasis on the testimony of Israel Schwartz. Have to say that how Magellan dealt with Schwartz's testimony, and its value, and contrasted it with other testimonies (save Packers) was fairly damning, and it was really refreshing to have ones perceptions quite readily challenged, and to read something that I felt was quite emphatic in challenging a commonly held belief.

Magellan also has quite a short shrift for the MacNaughton memorandum (justifiably so imo), and then moves on to a small number of suspects.

For quite valid reasons, these suspects are fairly dismissed as being JtR. However, the only downside to this book was that it appeared to run out of steam a little bit here, as the suspect examination was, imo all to brief, & covered probably too few suspects.

A bit of a bizarre twist occurs with the penultimate chapter, with Magellans examination of who killed MJK. Up to this point, the book has been steadfast in examination of factual evidence - almost ruthlessly so in some portions. Strangely, for 1 chapter (about 12 pages) some very wild speculation comes to the fore. This is made all the more bizarre by a brief conclusion which reverts back to the original style.

Needless to say I couldn't bring myself to accept the majority of this one chapter.

That said, the rest of the book is a very good read. It was quite invigorating to read of familiar events in a slightly different style, with a critical eye, and not following the formulaic path that a lot of other books sadly fall into, making them sometimes repetitive. This did make me pay attention, and I felt it was worthwhile. I will not look at the evidence of Schwartz again without bearing in mind the critical eye Magellan has placed upon it, and how he validly suggests that many do place an over-bearing amount of value on this testimony above many others.

A genuinely good book. Quite dry, but the examinations of the injuries inflicted, and also of various witness testimonies make this a very recommended book which pleasure-ably challenged some existing conceptions I have on the case, has encouraged me to be a bit more critical, and was not formulaic.

Very recommended.
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