The Prince & the Whitechapel Murders

Written by Saul David
Review by Edward James

After an eight year wait, here is a further instalment in the adventures of Major George ‘Zulu’ Hart, hero of Queen Victoria’s ‘little wars’. However, this time Hart is not at an outpost of the empire but in the East End of London solving the ‘crime of the century’, the Jack the Ripper murders (1888).

Saul David is a distinguished military historian as well as a storyteller, and I was disappointed that Hart was not going back to war. Besides, isn’t Jack the Ripper rather done to death by novelists? But David cannot write a boring story, and I am sure you will enjoy this as much as Hart’s earlier adventures.

Jack the Ripper would not be half so famous had he been caught. The fascination of the murders is that they are unsolved. Early on, crime writers seized on the thesis that the killer was an eminent personage whose identity was hushed up by his Establishment colleagues. The idea that Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert (Eddy), was involved was first mooted in 1970. David takes the opposite view, and his book is the story of how Hart proves the Prince’s innocence.

Hart becomes Eddy’s covert ‘minder’ when the Prince of Wales, alarmed at the louche company his son is keeping, appoints Hart to his son’s regiment. The Prince’s forays into the East End for forbidden pleasures soon put him under suspicion as the serial killer: the only way Hart can avert a royal scandal is to find the true killer himself. Needless to say, he succeeds, but of course the killer is not brought to justice. Instead he meets a deserved but unpublicised end.

A fine Victorian crime novel.