Hallie Rubenhold’s expertly written and filled-to-the-brim-with-(new) information The Five is a true masterpiece. Along the lines of The Trial of Lizzie Borden, The Five delves into the infamous, unsolved Jack the Ripper case using actual documents, news articles and police reports…but with a twist: a beautifully researched work based on the lives of the women claimed by Jack.
Take a moment to answer this question: who was Jack the Ripper? At the core of the case is one thing everyone has always agreed on: the women were prostitutes, and, for some, that meant Jack was also cleaning the streets. The amazing thing is that this isn’t true at all. Only one woman was a known prostitute, and another was suspected of soliciting a handful of times out of desperation. Why am I telling you this? Because everyone I’ve talked to about the case has said the same thing, “they were prostitutes”, as if that makes their lives worth less. I want to share this book so that people can actually learn about a case that had so much going on yet remains an unsolved mystery to this day.
Hallie not only tells us what these women really had in common, but she starts completely at the beginning. Going as far back as each woman’s parents’ births of the women in some cases, Hallie describes the lives of Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate and Mary Jane. She describes the circumstances each was born into. She brings to light the obstacles each faced from merely being born a woman instead of a man to homelessness to loss to alcoholism without treatment.
I couldn’t put this down and any true crime and murder mystery fans out there are going to have a hard time doing so as well. I also talked about it non-stop the entire time I was reading it, so I need to world to read it and discuss with me because my co-workers and family have had the information drilled into them. In an interesting turn, this book barely mentions Jack the Ripper (as the focus is the women) and yet it is far more interesting than anything I have ever learned or heard about Jack the Ripper.
Hallie Rubenhold (left) and the cover of The Five, photos courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing.