Note: You were probably expecting a review of Heart of the Tarot instead of this book. Once again, let us blame Mercury retrograde: I got distracted by this little gem and decided to review it first. You also may have noticed that I did not include a picture of the cover of Death of a Prince. Instead, I bring you a picture of a letter purportedly written by Saucy Jack himself.
Author: Jeanette Han with Ann Ann
Publisher: Random House Australia
I haven't read something this bad since Memoirs of an Exorcist. And that's saying a lot. I didn't say much for Memoirs at the time, but at least it was coherent. Death of a Prince, however, is far from coherent.
The back of the book claims that the contents will describe what happened to 13 Australian psychics who took a psychic tour of England in October of 1998. They were led on this tour by Ann Ann the Extraordinaire. Fair enough. I was already leaning towards doubting the integrity of someone who walks around allowing herself to be called "Ann Ann the Extraordinaire," but I was willing to give it a shot. The draw of the book is that the psychics were supposed to have uncovered "age old secrets" relating to none other than Jack the Ripper.
The story of the trip begins in the late 1980's, when the indefatigable Ann Ann is having a past life regression and recalls that she just happened to be Princess May of Teck (the woman who later became Queen Mary of England). About ten years later, she sees an advertisement in a newspaper for tours of England and thinks about how wonderful it would be if a particular tour had a psychic to guide them! And thus, the tour that was to lead to the revelation of age old secrets was born!
And the rest:
Our author, Jeanette Han, decided to sign up for the Psychic tour and wrote to the radio station that Ann Ann appeared on. Ann Ann, in turn, gave her an on air psychic reading in which Ann informs Jeanette that she will soon be writing another book. Amazingly enough, when Ann Ann meets Jeanette seven months later at the start of the tour, Ann Ann asks Jeanette to write a book about the trip! Amazing. Of course, Ann Ann claimed to have not remembered predicting Jeanette was going to write a book, so you know its true. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of skepticism with which I was presented throughout the entire book.
I don't really have anything against wide eyed believers in particular. (Besides the fact that skeptical people who are interested in the paranormal often get painted with the same brush as the wingnuts). However, I do have something against writers who can't correctly use simple vocabulary words in their work. This Ms. Han manages to do on three separate occasions, with the words oasis, ironic, and horded. And I also have something against writers who don't make any damned sense. This Ms. Han manages to do throughout the entire book (though it does get worse near the end).
The psychic impressions begin on the first night the group is in England, on a Jack the Ripper tour. Ann Ann begins to pick up information about the murders and proceeds to harass the hell out of their tour guide. And so begins their adventures. They find out that Jeanette was a prostitute during the time of Jack the Ripper. Then they wander off to Stratford-on-Avon, where Ann Ann picks up all kinds of information about one of Shakespear's relatives. She was read haired and had a miscarriage! This was confirmed by the tour guide telling the group that "there were miscarriages in the family." And if that's not a ringing confirmation, I'm Princess May of Teck! At this time, we also find out that the tannery behind Shakespear's house was somehow involved with the Jack the Ripper murders! What this connection is, we never actually find out, except that tanneries continue to be pointed out throughout the remainder of the book. We are reassured at this point that though almost everything that comes out of Ann Ann's mouth is either widely published public information or impossible to confirm, that "All of Ann's information was derived from her intuitive source and was confirmed through research on returning to Australia." That's a relief!
The story progresses, becoming more muddled and silly as it goes. Apparently, there's a connection between Prince Albert Victor of the British Monarchy, druids, Freemasons, Trinity College, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, King Arthur, the Modern Royals, Degas (who painted a picture around the time Jack was killing people!), Edinburgh, cross dressing tendencies, Queen Victoria (who turns out to be a psychic), the Queen's surgeon, a coach driver, the Titanic, and Jack the Ripper! However, if you expect me to explain it, don't hold your breath. Also, the author has not only experienced a past life as a prostitute some time around the Jack the Ripper murders, but she also lived as one of the Communication Officers on the Titanic. This just goes to show, since other members of the psychic group also have past lives tied to Jack the Ripper.
To ensure us that they are on the right track, Ms. Han presents us with startling occurrences like stepping into a book store in Edinburgh and finding a biography on Arthur Conan Doyle (ACD was born in Edinburgh). And stepping into another bookstore and finding a book on Freemasonry! How this all adds up, I have no idea -- but you get the vague idea from Ms. Han that this is all somehow vitally important and connected to...you guessed it! Jack the Ripper!!! (Extra emphasis mine.)
The Freemasons keep rearing their ugly heads throughout -- and apparently, the curse one of the group members or something because poor Ron sits in a Freemason's chair in a hotel and is sick the next day!
In the end, we find out that Prince Albert Victor may or may not have been involved in Jack the Ripper killings, after falling in with a bad crowd of Freemasonic Occultists due to his cross dressing tendencies and drug use. Also, he may have been poisoned, maybe. Riveting stuff. Ms. Han makes it quite clear that she's not actually saying he was involved in anything, but that spirit gives us important information. I think she was afraid of a law suit.
All of this still could have made for an entertaining, if wacky, read. Except Ms. Han writes incredibly poorly throughout. In addition to the afore-mentioned apparent lack of a grasp of the English language, her narrative is infuriatingly incoherent. She intersperses events from the tour with trances Ann Ann performed long after the tour was over and they were all back in Australia. She subjects us to poetry she's written about her soul. She provides us with long transcripts of automatic writing sessions which often contain a series of really poorly rhymed statements. She never provides any actual research that was supposedly performed, nor does she ever come out and say anything about Jack, Prince Albert Victor, or anyone else.
When you hold this book up to the light of examination, it simply fades away. And you'll be wanting to fade away from this book if you ever pick it up. Caveat lector!