Have you seen “Ripper Street” yet? Saturday nights on BBC America. I discovered it after its mid-January debut, but thanks to On Demand, I’m caught up and thoroughly hooked. The mini series is set in Whitechapel in London’s East End in 1889. six months after Jack the Ripper’s last murder. The seedy side of Victorian life is the backdrop for the gruesome murders challenging the trio of crime fighters pictured here—and are they ever an interesting set of characters. Each has his specialties, his quirks, and his secrets, all of them reeled out bit by bit as the series progresses. You have the American former Pinkerton, former Army surgeon whose forensics skills are prized by the lead detective inspector of H Division despite the fact that he’s a crass American who resides in a brothel. The inspector’s right hand man is a former army officer whose service during the Anglo-Egyptian War has left him pretty edgy. Most people stay out of his way, but his boss gets him, for button-down as he appears to be, he has dark secrets of his own.
These shows are gritty and suspenseful, and the characters become more interesting with each episode as bits of their back stories play into the action and relationships become increasingly complex. At some point I’m going to have to check out the historical accuracy of some of the forensics and such, but for right now I’m satisfied that even if a little license is taken, it’s probably close enough. Scientific discovery was on the rise at that time.
Bring on the women. The young prostitute and the tough madam who share an interest in the American bad boy become stronger characters as time goes on, as does the inpector’s wife. But it’s the population of Whitechapel that adds real spice to every story, so far a different slice of life featured in each episode. The child gangs—think Fagan’s band of young pickpockets and toughs—are particularly haunting, as are the women from all walks of life. If you’ve read any of Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series—the new one is due out any day, can’t wait—you’ve developed a taste for an earlier version of the Whitechapel/St. Giles setting. Talk about your tough neighborhoods.
I’ve discovered the BBC America website thanks to this series. Lots of interesting bits, like 10 things Americans do that offend Brits and 10 ways Brits offend Americans. It’s the little things.
Before I forget, I have a new book set to go on sale in e-format next week. It’s available now in paperback.
And check out the $1.99 deal on THE LAST GOOD MAN in e-format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble—both prices still good as I write this in the wee hours of Friday—and on THIS TIME FOREVER at Barnes & Noble, which is definitely good through today.
Tell us about the latest great TV show or movie you saw or the last book you read. It’s been snowing here, and we’re feeling a little cabin fever.