What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen – Book Review

What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen
Published by Sourcebooks

The year is 1888 and London is being terrorized by Jack the Ripper. For now only prostitutes are being targeted, but the citizenry is worried that the fiend may branch out. Scotland Yard is at a loss, so they decide to call in William James, the American professor of philosophy and the emerging field of psychology. It is James’ understanding of psychology that they hope will help them find the culprit. William just happens to be the older brother of novelist Henry James who, together with their younger invalid sister Alice, join in the hunt with William. William is the expert in psychology and works with the police, Henry does¬†reconnaissance in Society, and Alice is the driving force between the siblings’ investigation.

This would be a fun book to pick up around Halloween, an interesting look at some of history’s most gruesome unsolved murders. I enjoy the interplay between academic and literary figures and the history that takes place around them, even if they were not involved with it – as long as it seems reasonable. Cohen definitely made the James siblings’ interest in and investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders seem at least plausible. I also appreciated how masterfully Cohen gave each of the siblings a strong and individual voice.

Well written, interesting historical fiction, especially if you enjoy whodunit theories of historical memory, as I do.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
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8 comments to What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen – Book Review

  • This sounds fantastic!! I love a good creepy feel when the fall hits, you know? And if you feel like joining a good read along, we’re going to do The Historian starting in a couple of weeks, so stop by or email me – I would be so excited if you joined!! :)

  • This does sound like a good one for October!

  • Bummer–looks like my library doesn’t have copies of this one yet. I will definitely keep an eye out though because I love books about Jack the Ripper!

  • I think I have a copy of this coming my way. I’m excited to read it; it may sound morbid but I was fascinated with the Ripper case when I was studying psychology/criminal justice in college. I look forward to reading this one!

  • Just read another review on this one, and I can’t believe I somehow missed getting my hands on it. I never get tired of Ripper, just because it is so deliciously Victorian and creepy.

  • I have to agree, the Halloween season would be a great time to read this, because that Ripper fellow was one creepy guy.
    I think this a look that especially those interested in Victorian England and Jack the Ripper will really enjoy.

  • I’m going to be picking this up one sometime, I just don’t know when. Thanks for the review.

  • CLM

    I read and enjoyed some of her other books but missed news of this one. Thanks for the review.