From December 1884 to December 1885, a series of murders occurred in Austin, Texas, which became known as the Servant Girl Annihilator murders. One of the suspects was a Malay cook, known only as Maurice. Before he could be apprehended, Maurice disappeared. It is presumed he went back to the ships to work. He told his employer at the Pearl House on Pecan Street that he was going to work his way over to London. When Maurice was gone, the murders mysteriously stopped.
Three years later, in 1888, the Jack the Ripper murders began. Among the hundreds of suspects was a Malay cook who called himself Maurice. A seaman named Dodge told London police that the cook threatened to kill every prostitute in London as revenge for having been robbed by one.
This is Maurice’s story, from his point of view. However, Maurice is innocent, but he slowly begins to realize that the true killer is his friend and life-long companion named Mawken. How far will Maurice go to stop the bloodshed?
In this fictionalized account, the author provides fresh information on the actual Austin murders that has not been previously published.
He is with me always, even from the beginning. He is with me yet. I am not sure when I first became aware of him, but it was long ago when I was yet a boy.
I was born in the small fishing village of Kadan Kyun on King Island across the channel from Mergui on the archipelago in Burma. I am called Maurice. You will forgive me if I use that name only. You will understand why by and by. I am Moken, although people who know no better say Malay. The Burmese of my homeland call my people Selung or Selone. After many years, I grew tired of correcting people, and now identify myself as simply Malay. For some reason, that seems to satisfy most people. I have far fewer questions now. I do not like questions. Perhaps what offends me are the answers.
I was born on the island sometime around or just before 1865. My people were known as sea gypsies. They roamed from place to place, without a true homeland. We spoke a common language, but I have not used it for so long I can no longer remember. My father grew rich in the spice trade, and settled on King Island before I was born. His wealth afforded me all of the luxuries of life. I had no siblings. I had loving parents but they were very busy, and allowed me much freedom to roam. I spent my early years running free on my island and exploring the area around my home, including the heavily jungled forest. When I was old enough for school, my parents hired a teacher – an Englishwoman who taught me English, reading, and basic arithmetic. It has been so long now since I spoke my native tongue, I converse, think, and dream in the English language. I am told I have a British accent, which amazes most people. I am a brown man with an English accent, which is quite a novelty in some places it seems.
At the age of ten, the local authorities, despite my race, allowed me to attend their local school. I am quite sure my father’s money had something to do with the decision. It was around that time when I first met … shall we say, “him.” Perhaps that is not the right expression; it was about that time when I first became aware of him.
This is the story of myself – and of him. Of how we met and became close. How I took care of him all these years. How he became obsessed with me, and how I tried to get away from him so many times. How he always his way back into my life somehow, and how I protected him when I believed he was innocent. Mostly, it is the story of why I now sit in a darkened room, waiting for … “him” to come home, so I can kill him in cold blood.
KIRKUS PREFERRED REVIEW
by Ernie Lee
Publisher: Aim-Hi Publishing
A novel offers a new perspective on one of history’s most notorious figures.
This 19th-century tale starts innocently enough with two Malay boys, lonely rich kid Maurice and Mawken, the poor
local boy he befriends. At first, Maurice educates the illiterate Mawken, who in turn gives him advice. But as Maurice
grows up, he yearns to strike out on his own and to leave Mawken behind. Before that can happen, the two end up on the
run after the mysterious murders of their parents, supposedly by pirates and witnessed only by Mawken. The two find
work on a cargo ship, with Maurice as a cook and Mawken as a crew member. Partway through the journey, Maurice
witnesses Mawken kill the ship’s brutal captain, but he stupidly picks up the murder weapon and is blamed for the crime
by his fellow crewmates. Luckily, a storm severely damages the ship and Maurice is briefly free of his past. Then
Mawken shows up again, and death follows him, with the kindly but weak-willed Maurice unable to escape his
dangerous friend: “There was no question or indication I had any recourse but to follow his plan. It was as if he made the
decisions and I meekly followed.” Maurice is the unfortunate observer of a series of gruesome murders of women, first
in Austin, Texas, and later in the slums of London, which leads to the Jack the Ripper mythos. The strength of Lee’s
(Aquasaurus, 2016, etc.) intriguing second novel is the well-researched, vivid passages describing life aboard a cargo
ship and in 19th-century Austin and London. The narrative moves along swimmingly in those parts. But the author tips
his twist ending way too soon. In addition, anyone who gets close to Maurice tends to disappear quickly, sometimes
permanently, while Mawken prefers to stay in the shadows (“I am not seen if I don’t want to be seen”). This means there
isn’t much of a cast to experience other than the two polar-opposite main characters. The key question that remains is
how long will it take Maurice to realize what readers already have.
A promising thriller about a famous serial killer in which the suspense prematurely dissipates.
HIM READER REVIEWS
Extraordinary tale of real-life 1885 murders in Austin, Texas. Author Ernie Lee provides exciting scene-b y-scene coverage in this thrilling novel. One of the main suspects was a Malaysian ship cook named Maurice. Although Maurice was never caught or interviewed, Lee focuses on this particular suspect in his novel. By researching late 19th century sailors and ancient Malaysian forklore, Lee uncovers new evidence that has never been explored. For instance, many of the Austin victims had a hole in their head. Much speculation at the time centered on an ice pick, a long nail or spike, or a rod of some sort. Lee explains that every sailor of that era had access to a marlin spike. A marlin spike matches exactly the wounds recorded int he autopsy reports of the time. Lee describes Malaysian folk mythis of the Panaggalong, an Asian monster similar to our vampires. The difference is very interesting. The way to neutralize an European vampire is a stake through the heart; the way to eliminate an Asian vampire is a stake through the head.
The remainder of the novel is fiction. Since no records exist of the real suspect, Lee fills in the blanks from his creative imagination. The thrilling murder-by-murder descriptions melds real-life with fiction, and results in an intreresting read, and a very scarey scenario. When intervied on NPR radio, Lee described the grisley killings. A must read.