This novel was based upon a theory about the Jack the Ripper Murders that I had not encountered before: that they were not a ritual per se but a message to a man who was familiar with the trappings of ritual.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Charles Warren undertook a series of archaeological excavations in Jerusalem. In the novel he discovers the Menorah of the Temple and moves it in secret to London. A Russian spy discovers Warren’s act and attempts to force him to hand over the Menorah. Knowing Warren is a Freemason he carries out murders which hint at Masonic symbols. With London succumbing to panic Warren must end the murders without his secret being revealed.
The telling of both conspiracies, that of the Jack the Ripper itself and the fate of the Menorah, holds together well and fits the evidence without stretching. Even the choice of a spy (a man well skilled in covert action) is plausible; indeed all the characters are developed well.
Unfortunately both the author’s background as a lecturer on the period and the detailed research he has done on the Ripper come to the forefront in many places to the detriment of the novel. Character-driven scenes dealing with the impact of the Ripper Murders are interspersed with long sections describing the conditions in London and the socio-economic forces behind prostitution that could have been taken straight from a text-book destroying much of the tension.
There is no question that Steel’s concept and research are sound; however the book tries to be both a novel and a proof of the theory and so does not fully achieve either.
Overall I liked this book and would recommend it to those who are interested in historical conspiracy theories.