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Portrait Of A Killer Audiobook

I was never a huge fan of listening to books. The thought that there were great audiobooks out there that stood on their own merits was an odd notion to me. But the fact is, I don’t have enough time to read all the books I would like to. Not even close. I guess I blame the authors who won’t stop writing and also the great creator who decided that I should only get live for a handful of decades.

To try to get through a few more books each year, I started listening to them in my truck. I spent about 40 minutes each day commuting to work, and a couple more hours each week running errands. Depending on the length of the audiobooks, or whether I’ve picked an abridged or unabridged copy, I can get through 3-4 books a month.

Some of these books are not worth listening to, but those are usually the books that wouldn’t have been worth reading (for me) in any format. Occasionally I will find one that has an annoying reader or poor production quality–in that case, I don’t suffer through it, but if I’m interested, I find a paper copy.

The latest and greatest

Here is my latest favorite. Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait Of A Killer audiobook. This is the story of Jack the Ripper and the unsolved White Chapel murders that plagued England in the 19th century. Bad stuff, but a fascinating story, made even more intriguing by the subtitle of the book: Jack The Ripper, Case Closed.

The author makes an argument for the identity of Jack the Ripper being an artist by the name of Walter Sickert. Even though Cornwell refers constantly to her research, I am astonished at the thought of how much research she must have conducted to write this book, especially a book about such grisly subject matter. (Not everyone is impressed with her research, as I discuss  briefly below).

In her novels, there is usually some sort of emotional satisfaction at the resolution.

But early on in Portrait Of A Killer, Patricia Cornwell tells her agent, “There is no joy in this.” She is seeking justice for the murdered victims, but if she is right about Sickert, then she knows she is pursuing a killer who got away with it and escaped into his grave, dead of natural causes in his early 80s.

Note: This book has a ton of critics, and many, many negative reviews on Amazon. It is described as being sloppily researched, rushed, and unlikely to stand the test of time and serious scrutiny.

Why I like the audio

The reader is female and has a pleasant voice. More interesting for me was that she easily switched into an English accent when reading letters written by British detectives, or by the killer, and that she never rushes. I’ve listened to audiobooks that are read at breakneck or molasses speed. This book has a great tempo.

One thing that was kind of corny was this sinister, minor key piano arpeggio that intrudes in the background when something especially horrifying is being discussed. This took me out of the listening experience and made me roll my eyes.


In my opinion, definitely worth a listen, although if you’re a diehard Ripperologist, it sounds like you may have serious issues with the work itself.

Note: I listened to the abridged version, so I cannot speak more knowledgeably than I have about the book–it may very well be that the material I missed vindicates the book’s critics, or its author.

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