You’d think that a novel featuring Jack the Ripper would be set in London, right? This still-unknown serial killer from 1888 with the salacious moniker killed between five and 11 women in and around the Whitechapel slums, especially in the Wicked Quarter Mile.
However, Ripper lore also makes some obscure references to Paris. I exploited them when I wrote the sequel to my paranormal crime mystery, The Ripper Letter. Since Track the Ripper had Parisian settings, I went to the City of Light to get them right.
In The Ripper Letter, I’d used the report of a missing letter that many experts believe the killer actually wrote. Only a facsimile remained in police files. I invented a code based on angel script that turned this letter into a dire warning. This thrust my protagonist, NYPD detective Dianysus Brentano, into a spiritual battle.
Track the Ripper takes Dianysus to London, Glastonbury and Paris as she chases a man posing as the Ripper and discovers an Internet-based contagion that turns his followers into killers. For the Paris connection, I used the frame of an actual Ripper suspect who’d been involved with member of Aleister Crowley’s occult circle. Dr. Roslyn “D’Onston” Stephenson was a former military surgeon who’d studied magic in Africa and Paris. So that was one connection. In addition, Mary Kelly, a Ripper victim, had briefly gone to Paris. One story holds that some mysterious experience there sent her back to London, where she met her terrible fate. I linked these two stories.
With D’Onston’s occult connections, I knew of Eliphas Levi, a priest who’d trained at the church of Saint-Sulpice and who’d practiced ritual magic in pagan spots, such as the current location of la Basilique du Sacré Coeur. So, this gave me two cavernous spaces in which to set some significant action.
Arriving in Paris, I headed for Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where 1940s-era intellectuals had met in cafes and salons to discuss literature and philosophy. Dianysus would discover she owned one of the amazing six-story buildings along the boulevard there, so I had to see what I could (and couldn’t) do with them.
Nearby, on the Rue Palatine, was Saint-Sulpice.
Crossing the Seine and hopping onto the Metro, I went up to the city’s highest point, Montmartre, to see if a helicopter could land in the cemetery there (I figured out how to make it work), and to find the type of mausoleum that I’d envisioned. I found several that would make my fictional one believable.
In addition, the cemetery gave me a spooky tone.
Each cemetery in Paris has its own personality, and Montmartre is a “city cemetery” in that life is busy all around it, a major road runs above it, and yet it remains dark and serene (if crowded).
Then, there was Sainte-Chapelle, a magnificent structure created to house Christ’s crown of thorns. The second-floor room is ethereal, with light coming in from 15 different tall and ornate stained glass windows, under an intricately arched ceiling. The windows showed hundreds of biblical scenes, but what had enchanted me was the interplay of soft red, blue and yellow light. It was simultaneously warm and cold, the perfect place for a supernatural confrontation.
In the end, I chose la Basilique du Sacré Coeur for the first battle, due in part to all the impressive angel imagery inside.
Situated on Montmartre, the basilica’s terrace offers a panoramic view of Paris and the vault underneath suggests numerous secret underground passageways.
Of course, there was romance as well. Cut throughout the scenes of danger and suspense in pursuit of the murder-mad Ripper were lusty, intimate moments for Dianysus for which the City of Light is celebrated.
Today, Katherine Ramsland is speaking at the Ripper Convention in London. To celebrate, Riverdale Avenue Books is offering her book FREE on their website ONLY with the code Rippercon18. https://riverdaleavebooks.com/books/5379/track-the-ripper-book-two-in-the-heart-of-darkness-series