City for Ransom [NOOK Book]


Welcome to Chicago, 1893 -- where new wonders are being unveiled . . . and a monster feeds on the unsuspecting.

Tens of thousands are flocking to a bustling, wind-swept metropolis in the middle of America for the great Exposition of 1893 -- to seethe future and to ride Mr. Ferris's remarkable wheel. A city of hope and hardship has caught the attention of the world -- and a maniacal killer has made it his hunting ground.

Inspector Alastair ...

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City for Ransom

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Welcome to Chicago, 1893 -- where new wonders are being unveiled . . . and a monster feeds on the unsuspecting.

Tens of thousands are flocking to a bustling, wind-swept metropolis in the middle of America for the great Exposition of 1893 -- to seethe future and to ride Mr. Ferris's remarkable wheel. A city of hope and hardship has caught the attention of the world -- and a maniacal killer has made it his hunting ground.

Inspector Alastair Ransom carries the burden of the dead on his shoulders. But a demon far worse than Ransom's own is loose -- a bloodthirsty killer who preys on Chicago's most vulnerable citizens, his grisly handiwork masked by the glitter and frenzy of the World's Fair. But a haunted detective doesn't realize how desperate his search has become -- for each passing hour brings the slayer closer to his next intended victim: Alastair Ransom.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061979361
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 902,466
  • File size: 670 KB

Meet the Author

Robert W. Walker, a graduate of Northwestern University, is the author of thirty-six novels, including the acclaimed PSI Blue featuring FBI Psychic Rae Hiyakawa, the Instinct Series with FBI Medical Examiner Dr. Jessica Coran, and the Edge Series featuring Texas Cherokee Detective Lucas Stonecoat and psychiatrist Meredyth Sanger. He has also recently published the serialized thriller set in India entitled Fleshwar on Robert was born in Corinth, Mississippi; grew up in Chicago, Illinois; and currently resides in Chicago and Charleston, West Virginia. In between teaching, lecturing, and book touring, Rob is busy tackling his next two novels, City of the Absent and Deja Blue.

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Read an Excerpt

City for Ransom

By Robert Walker

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Robert Walker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060739959

Chapter One

Illinois Central Train Station, Chicago, June 1, 1893

Yanked from a heated card game to investigate another murder, the third garroting in as many weeks, Inspector Alastair Ransom arrived angry. The rhythm his cane beat across the marble floor stopped when he hit a wall of odors -- the winner: charred flesh. The smell dredged up memories of the Haymarket Riot and bombing, some seven years ago. The odors brought up another memory as well -- one of a particularly grueling botched interrogation he'd conducted just before the infamous riot in Haymarket Square, a memory he'd hoped to have forgotten even more so than the labor riot itself.

But here it sat upon his mind, full-blown as if yesterday, thanks to this victim's fetid demise.

In an irritatingly gruff voice that made Inspector Alastair Ransom's hair stand on end, Dr. James Phineas Tewes shouted, "Inspector Ransom, finally, someone in charge."

"Can I help you?"

"I insist on a scientifically accurate, thorough phrenological diagnosis on the dead boy's cranium to determine his magnetic levels at the time of death."

"Phrenological what?"

"I'm conducting a study, you see and -- "

"Magnetic levels? What nonsense! Read the dead boy's charred cranium? What possible good could your questionable art of reading skulls do either him or my investigation? He's dead, for God's -- "

"But Chief Kohler approved and a -- "

"His head's smoldering yet from being torched! G'damn you, Tewes! This is a murder investigation. You've no busi -- "

"And your superiors, sir, sent me to examine -- " Tewes stopped to catch another glimpse of the body, now half hidden by Ransom's considerable girth. Despite the black, smoldering lump of flesh leaning against the column, Dr. Tewes forged on. "I will make my observations and complete my mission here, Inspector! We're conducting an experiment."

Ransom tightened his teeth around an unlit pipe and tapped the floor with his cane. He scratched at his day-old stubble and stared long at the scrawny, parasitic scavenger everyone called a doctor, James Phineas Tewes -- a little man of whom he thought little. He turned his back on Tewes to shout instead for his second in command. "Griff! Griffin."

"Yes, Inspector!" Griffin Drimmer called back.

"Get Keane in here to do the photographic work, so we can mop up this mess." Ransom indicated a blackened, charred faceless body propped against a pillar at the Baltimore and Ohio side of the building, second-floor balustrade. The marble floor around the body, also charred and blackened, told a tale in blood as it trailed from the men's room to the pillar.

The corpse's still smoldering head flopped forward, a quiet but echoing snap telegraphing a bone-cracking eruption at the terminus of the spine, incrementally giving way to the weight of the skull. The head had very nearly been cut off.

"You may ignore me, Inspector, but you can't ignore this!" Tewes, a dapper man in topcoat, suit ascot, his mustache twitching, claimed to psychically read people's heads as Gypsies read tea leaves or palms. But Tewes went to the extreme, claiming to diagnose illnesses and render cures to melancholia and other mental maladies with some sort of magnetic mumbo-jumbo in association with laying-on-of-hands. Little more than a snake-oil salesman.

Despite Ransom's attempts to stifle Tewes, the so-called phrenologist continued to wave a note. The note had the expensive watermark representing Kohler's office.

"Don't be a fool, Ransom," Tewes warned.

"Never, sir."

"Don't dare stand in my way. Not with this in my hand! An express order from your superior."

"You use the term superior too loosely, sir, and I don't react well to threats, Doctor." Ransom made the word doctor sound like quack.

"I know about you. Every law-abiding citizen in Chicago wants Kohler to give you the boot for your extravagant interpretations of the law," Tewes began in a more sour tone. "Your ill-treatment of prisoners, your questionable interrogation techniques."

"Really now?"

"The stuff of dark legend. Everyone fearing you!"

"Makes my job easier." Ransom gave a moment's thought to his ill-gotten, half-deserved reputation -- the half that remained in people's minds. Tewes had kindly left out his addiction to gambling, tobacco, whiskey, quinine, and women.

"You can't stop the march of science or progress, Inspector!"

"Science? Progress?"

"Police science, yes."

"Really now?"

"I represent the hope that police operations improve evidence-gathering tech -- "

"By paying out a handsome fee to the likes of you, Doctor?"

"You're as rough a fellow as I was warned!"

"Aye, I am that."

"And stubborn! Knowing that Kohler himself wishes my participation on this case!" Tewes again waved the note in Alastair's face. "For God's sake, man. Read it!"

"Why? You've already revealed its content." Ransom punctuated his words with the unlit pipe, jabbing at Tewes. "Look here, my patience is in short supply, and you've no business here, mister!"

"This says otherwise!"

"You're not affiliated with the Chicago Police force or Dr. Christian Fenger's Coroner's Office. And if you dare get in my way again, I'll have you arrested for obstructing an ongoing investigation."

Tewes's curled handlebar mustache twitched anew like a tadpole under the muted train station gaslight.

Ransom saw a uniformed copper and shouted, "O'Malley! Take Dr. Tewes here out of my sight." Ransom turned his back on Tewes's raised hand, the note still flourishing birdlike over his head as O'Malley gently guided Tewes off. "You damned, daft fool!" Tewes shouted to no avail.

Inspector Ransom returned to the still-smoldering body that'd been doused with either petrol or kerosene, and then with water. In two previous such cases, the fire investigator had determined kerosene the accelerant.

Ransom immediately noticed a bloody handprint, left on the marble floor; the trail of blood led him to inspect the men's room. Drimmer pointed out the sliced off digits in the sink. Ransom went over to the body again, studying the handprint more closely. "The print has all its fingers. It isn't the boy's, unless the killer snipped off his fingers here and returned to the men's room to deposit each digit in the sink, but that feels counterintuitive."


Excerpted from City for Ransom by Robert Walker Copyright © 2005 by Robert Walker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2006

    An Excellent Beginning

    In making the move to historical fiction, Robert W. Walker deploys his strength as a mystery writer while evoking visceral images of 1893 Chicago at the time of the ¿White City¿. His characters are razor sharp in intensity. The plot unrolls seamlessly as he captures the politics and atmosphere of late nineteenth century Chicago and its police force. In particular, the protagonist, Inspector Alastair Ransom, is not the usual dashing, handsome, svelte cop hero. Instead he harbors a chorus of mental demons, supports a number of personal vices and carries wounds that dig into his soul like claws. Alastair Ransom is a fascinating study in the dynamics of human behavior. If the book only offered one such intriguing character, it would fail. Walker offers a solid contingent whose interactions fuel the plot and their own personal agendas. I¿m particularly fussy about my historical mystery reading and have shunned a number of books for their lack of research. So many of them do not deliver that gut-wrenching something that causes a book to rise above its peers. I am captivated by City for Ransom. Walker gives you your money¿s worth and more. I can¿t wait to see how the series plays out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2006

    Good mystery...

    The year is 1893 and the Chicago World's Fair has a serial killer on the loose. There is no such thing as collecting fingerprints. Nor do the police have our modern labs yet to help analyze clues for evidence. ....................... Inspector Alastair Ransom is given the case. Alastair would have an easier time of it if the chief had not told him to work with Dr. James Phineas Towes. Alastair simply does not believe that James can read victims' last minutes by the contours of their scalps. Alastair's partner, Griffin Drimmer, is more open minded though. One thing is for sure, the trio best get busy, because Alastair is on the killer's list. .................... **** I do not read many mysteries that are set in the past. I am happy that I took a chance on this one though. An intense story focusing on how different investigations were dealt with back in the 1890's. There are even a couple of chuckles waiting for you during Alastair's more frustrating moments. Mystery fans will LOVE this one. ****

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2005

    A fantastic history mystery

    Walker has done an amazing job of weaving research and the fantastical into this amazingly fast novel. could not put it down, not for a second.. read it in one sitting.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific late nineteenth century police procedural

    Though the Haymarket Riots of a few years ago still haunt him, in 1893 Chicago, Police Inspector Alastair Ransom has become renowned for his use of modern police methods including some he has invented to solve crimes. The cop is currently looking into the third garroting homicide in three weeks. However, his superior Chief Kohler dumps crime scene phrenologist Dr. James Phineas Tewes on Alastair who rejects the young man as a charlatan and besides fears the media circus of having a magnetism conman accompany their inquiries. --- However, Alastair gives James his do as the lad refuses to back off though he is treated as a nuisance by the cop Alastair¿s junior partner Griffin Drimmer is nicer to the eager youngster. As the sleuth diligently works the case to stop a serial killer from murdering again, James observes his methods trying to learn the new science of criminology from the master. --- CITY FOR RANSOM is a terrific late nineteenth century police procedural that uses the investigation to provide insight into life in Chicago during the Gay 90s. Key elements make the who-done-it intriguing but what comes alive from these components are insights into a bygone era such as the early days of the science of criminology, the role of women during an investigation, and looking back at an earlier relatively recent (in terms of the setting) real tragedy. With a strong cast especially Ransom and Phineas-Tewses and a neat twist involving the latter Robert W. Walker is at his lofty best with this terrific historical mystery. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2005

    City for Ransom

    Walker has outdone himself, going from his Instinct Series and Edge Series to a time when forensics was not in use. City for Ransom is a police and noir tale set against a dark city--early Chicago circa 1893 and Walker captures it like a magician, as if he has walked these streets. This is a book that is nonstop from page one to last a great, great additon to the territory carved out by Caleb Carr but in many ways, Walker goes beyond Carr.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2005

    City for Ransom

    Only one word for this novel: Outstanding. This must be the book Walker was born to write, and as the beginning of a new series, I can't wait to be 'Ransomed' again and again. I loved the Instinct and Edge Series, and now something even better set in time -- 1893 Chciago gaslight. Walker is master of his domain!

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