Friday, December 05, 2014

Please Welcome Mystery Author Diane Gilbert Madsen

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Diane Gilbert Madsen
with Diane Gilbert Madsen

We are delighted to welcome author Diane Gilbert Madsen to Omnimystery News.

Diane's third DD McGil Literati Mystery is The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper (MX Publishing; April 2014 hardcover, trade paperback and ebook formats). We asked her to tell us a little more about the storyline, and she titles her guest post for us today, "Did the Real Sherlock Holmes Solve the Jack the Ripper Murders?"

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Diane Gilbert Madsen
Photo provided courtesy of
Diane Gilbert Madsen

Almost everyone in the world knows something about the Jack the Ripper case. Over 170 suspects have been named as the Ripper, ranging from street thugs all the way to royalty. My newest Literati Mystery, The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper is a riveting fiction mystery novel based on facts about the infamous case.

The world went wild over Sherlock Holmes from the very beginning. He was more like an impersonal thinking machine than a man. With his wealth of esoteric knowledge, he knows more than we do about almost everything. His logical and unemotional mind allow him to solve any problem presented, and so we hold him in awe.

The singular and somewhat quirky Mr. Sherlock Holmes was so fascinating that he quickly became famous world over. People not only recognized his name, but they also claimed to "know" what he looked like due to the wonderful drawings accompanying the serialized magazine stories. He became more real than fictional, and hundreds of letters from the public asking for help from the consulting detective were delivered to 221 B Baker Street.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes is fictional, but he's based upon a very real person named Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell, another Scot like Conan Doyle, was a crackerjack surgeon and lecturer at Edinburgh University, where Doyle studied medicine. Dr. Bell, or Professor Joe Bell as he was called, became a legend because he could analyze and diagnose a patient's illness before the patient uttered one word about his symptoms. Bell could tell a patient what his profession was or whether he was a drinker by looking at the patient's hands and his face. He spotted language accents, tattoos, scars and skin disorders, and from these observations, he could deduce facts about these patients who were strangers to him. The successful diagnosis, he told students, rested on three things — "Observe carefully, deduce shrewdly, and confirm with evidence." He called this the "Method" — the "accurate and rapid appreciation of small points."

When Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story appeared in print, everyone immediately recognized that Doyle had used Dr. Bell as the prototype for his fictional counterpart. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character used the same "Method" as Dr. Bell to unearth clues and solve cases. Sherlock Holmes was lean and lanky, with an eagle eye, an aquiline nose, and piercing eyes. So was Dr. Joe Bell. Sherlock Holmes wore a cloaked coat and a deerstalker cap. So did Dr. Joe Bell. Sherlock Holmes had a decisive manner. So did Dr. Bell. Thus Doyle's Sherlock Holmes became the first fictional superman forensics detective, and he was based on the first real one, Dr. Joe Bell.

Doyle and Bell were not only mentor and pupil, but they became colleagues and lifelong friends. And this connection is how I came to write my new book, "The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper."

I often wondered why Conan Doyle never wrote a story in which the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, matched wits with the world's most fiendish murderer, Jack the Ripper. I suspected that Doyle's silence was something like Sherlock Holmes' observation about the dog that did not bark in the night.

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes in Silver Blaze.

Sherlock Holmes concluded that the dog was silent because the dog knew the intruder. In my book, I uncover some facts and clues to help explain why I believe that Doyle, along with Dr. Bell — the REAL Sherlock Holmes — may have deduced the identity of the Ripper but never revealed it.

The Ripper case still fascinates us. It was the world's first serial killer case, and today, over 125 years later, it is still unsolved. The Ripper butchered 5 women in the Whitechapel District of London between August and November of 1888. The press grabbed hold of it and made it a sensation, and the gruesome details and the letters written by the Ripper made headlines throughout the world. We now know that many of the letters were fake, and the first letter sent to the press was really written by a reporter named Frederick Best who worked for the Star Newspaper.

Since the murders, more than 170 suspects have been named as the Ripper, according to the Guardian newspaper. Some have even accused Lewis Carroll and others have named Conan Doyle himself. There's also a Jill the Ripper theory where a woman or a man disguised as a woman commits the murders with impunity. It's such a famous unsolved case that The FBI even did a criminal profile on Jack the Ripper.

When the Ripper murders took place in 1888, Doyle wasn't yet a Sir, but he had already published "A Study in Scarlet" and was on his way to being one of the most famous people in the world. With all the press the Ripper murders were getting, I felt it was likely that Doyle would have been very interested in the case.

We know for a fact that someone else was also highly interested in the case — Dr. Joe Bell. Dr. Bell was physician to Queen Victoria whenever she was in Scotland. He participated in many autopsies and was often called in by Dr. Littlejohn, the Surgeon of Police and Medical Officer of Health of Edinburgh, to attend him. Dr. Bell wrote that he was contacted by Scotland Yard to review the files, which he did, along with "a friend who likes puzzles." I believe this friend was Arthur Conan Doyle. They each went over the evidence as well as the named and some unnamed suspects. Bell says that they then each wrote down the name of their suspect, put it into an envelope and exchanged envelopes. When the envelopes were opened, both Dr. Bell and the "friend who likes puzzles" had written the same name. Bell says a report on the suspect was made to Scotland Yard, but the report has never been released. Why? What happened to it? Why did they keep silent about the identity of their suspect?

Many previous searchers seemed to have fastened early on to an individual suspect and then sorted through facts to demonstrate that this person "did it." I chose a different path. My conclusions are based upon the facts that were reported by the authorities and by the eyewitnesses at the time. I used no third party analysis to shape my conclusions. Using the Sherlockian Method, I assembled a series of clues — clues I believe that Bell and Doyle — and by extension Sherlock Holmes — would have used to help solve the case. These clues are laid out in my book in the form of Conan Doyle's Notes — Notes that reveal the secret. These clues point to the suspect I believe was identified by Dr. Bell and Conan Doyle at the time. The clues point to a suspect who was not on a random killing spree. This suspect was investigated by Scotland Yard and is mentioned in a cryptic letter written by Inspector Frederick George Abberline, who did much of the actual work on the Ripper case.

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Diane Gilbert Madsen attended the Universtiy of Chicago and earned an M.A. in the 17th century English Literature from Roosevelt University. She is the former Director of Economic Development for the State of Illinois where she oversaw the Tourism and Illinois Film Office. Later she ran her own consulting firm. Her lifelong interest in literature and history, especially Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, provide inspiration in writing her Literati Mystery Series. Currently Diane lives with her husband Tom and their Japanese Chin Angel at Twin Ponds, a five-acre wildlife sanctuary on Cape Haze in Florida.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at DianeGilbertMadsen.com, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper by Diane Gilbert Madsen

The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper
Diane Gilbert Madsen
A DD McGil Literati Mystery

Why did the dog not bark in the night? Sherlock Holmes concluded that it was because the intruder was known to the dog. This new mystery questions whether the identity of one of the greatest criminals of all time, Jack the Ripper, was deduced by Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle was already famous with his popular Sherlock Holmes stories when Jack the Ripper struck London in October 1888. Why was Conan Doyle silent about this case?

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