Review: Whitechapel Rhapsody by Alessandro Manzetti

cover of Whitechapel RhapsodyWhitechapel Rhapsody by Alessandro Manzetti
Independent Legions (October 2020)
85 pages; $10.90 paperback, $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Alessandro Manzetti has quickly made a fairly large stamp on the genre. I remember hearing his name some a couple years ago, seeing something from him pop up here and there. Now, dude’s name is moving mountains. Whitechapel Rhapsody is a marvelous example of why.

Most people would focus completely on the gory details. The death and the blood and the bodies littering the streets, entrails pulled free in the night by our dear Jack. There’s plenty of that here, but that isn’t enough for Mr. Manzetti. He spends time painting images of Whitechapel itself, the people who inhabit its streets and the crumbling brickwork soaking up their sweat and tears. He delves into the myriad personalities of theoried Rippers, from butchers to syphilis-infected doctors. Its a broad picture of the intersections of myth, folklore and fact.

And damn if it isn’t beautiful, in its own dark and terrifying way. Manzetti can turn a phrase like nobody’s business, then make it pirouette before doing a triple Lindey and sticking the landing like a scalpel lodging in your breastbone. Just peep these bars:

The night has diamonds in its mouth
and a long black tail; now she’s alone
hears my footsteps, looks back to me
and smiles, my Mona Lisa with broken teeth.
She was just beaten by her master, you see,
or maybe by her husband, for too bland soup.

Whitechapel Rhapsody isn’t the cold analysis or the bright sensationalism of true crime but instead aims for finding a truth beneath the TRUTH of these events and the horrors we inflict on each other on just as much of a systemic level as a personal one. This deep red, deep east end delving is definitely worth checking out.

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