Book Review | What Alice Knew

Title: What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper

Author: Paula Marantz Cohen

My Review:

Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers of all time, and one of the ones that most fascinates me. Criminology was one of my favorite studies during college, especially the time we spent discussing serial killers. When the opportunity came up to review What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen, I was completely on board. I majored in English and remember fondly reading the fiction of Henry James. It had never occurred to me that this famous author had lived near to where Jack the Ripper’s infamous murders occurred. What if, indeed, Henry James personally knew the killer?

What Alice Knew puts Henry James, his brother William, and their invalid sister Alice right in the middle of the Jack the Ripper investigation. Henry’s brother William was recruited by Scotland Yard to help them investigate the White Chapel Murders. Their sister Alice convinced her brothers that the three of them working together would be capable of solving the crime. Each of them had a different skill set, that when combined, made them more valuable than any one man currently working the case. Their investigation leads them to interact with other famous writers, artists, and the elite of society to catch the killer. During the course of their crime solving, Alice takes an interest in an artist named Sickert, who just so happens to be at the very top of her brothers’ list of suspects.

As much as I loved the subject matter of this novel, I found it to be a difficult read. Cohen, an English professor at a Philadelphia college, is undoubtedly a gifted writer. However, I felt she lacked in the ability to make this an enticing and compelling read. Had I not been obligated to write this review, I believe I would have passed on finishing this novel and moved on to something else. It seems that her talents rests more on the mechanical aspects of writing rather than creative writing.

*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including,, and

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