Shadows in the White City: An Inspector Alastair Ransom Mystery

Shadows in the White City: An Inspector Alastair Ransom Mystery

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by Robert W. Walker

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The nation and the world gaze in awe at Chicago's magnificent "White City" in this summer of 1893. But Inspector Alastair Ransom sees the rot beneath the splendor of the great Exposition—and he is consumed with an over-powering need for vengeance. "The Phantom of the Fair," a blood-thirsty fiend who nearly added Ransom to his ever-growing list of


The nation and the world gaze in awe at Chicago's magnificent "White City" in this summer of 1893. But Inspector Alastair Ransom sees the rot beneath the splendor of the great Exposition—and he is consumed with an over-powering need for vengeance. "The Phantom of the Fair," a blood-thirsty fiend who nearly added Ransom to his ever-growing list of slaughtered victims, is still lurking somewhere in the shadows of Ferris's gargantuan Wheel. And to end the maniac's reign, Ransom refuses to play by the rules established by the police brass and the corrupt politicians—appointing himself judge, jury . . . and executioner.

But white-hot hatred and zealous fury can blind a determined manhunter to a more terrible truth. And dangerous missteps may lead to even greater bloodshed . . .

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Shadows in the White City
An Inspector Alastair Ransom Mystery

Chapter One

Chicago, Illinois, June 7, 1893 . . . 1 A.M.

Phantom of the Fair Still at Large

Arrests of Two Suspects Prove False Leads Arresting Officer Ransom Near Death, Under Investigation

Chicago Herald exclusive by Thomas Carmichael

Despite two arrests in the case of the Phantom of the Fair (seven killings by garrote and incineration), both suspects are today free men, released due to lack of evidence against either man—one a photographer, the other a carriage driver.

Meanwhile, Inspector Alastair Ransom is credited with the most recent arrest in the case, now called a false arrest based upon conceit and harassment. In fact, if Mr. Ransom lives, he may well face charges of an extraordinary nature, not the least being incompetence.

In essence, police remain stymied by the elusive Phantom, who no one doubts may strike again at any moment. The list of innocent lives lost to this fiend includes one unborn child, destroyed while in its mother's womb. When will public outrage over these crimes exceed our gratuitous fascination with murder? Masked as it is by the sheer growth of our great city. Masked as well by the commerce and the new skyscrapers rising up along our magnificent lakefront, and the marvels of modern invention and industry we see daily now at the World's Columbian Exposition.

At Cook County Hospital, Dr. Christian Fenger was a god, his word law. He also proved a capable showman. As faculty and doctors on staff taught medicine andsurgery in connection with Rush Medical College, Cook County had a modest and typically adequate operating theater with well-worn equipment and staggered seating for just over seventy observers. The arena was a platformed, wooden-tiered wedding cake, so that from anywhere in the room, with good eyesight, anyone might look over Dr. Christian Fenger's shoulder. News had got out that he was performing emergency surgery on none other than the infamous Inspector Alastair Ransom of the Chicago Police Department, shot and mortally wounded. Despite the hour, the room bulged with the crowd.

Christian Fenger was, after all, known the country over as the best surgical mentor in the city. Watching him work to save a wounded copper with a hole the size of a woman's fan in his side proved fascinating and awe-inspiring. Indeed, such an opportunity proved irresistible to medical people—men and women. Indeed, it proved the best education a medical student could find in Chicago and all the Midwest.

It's a terrible thing what's happened to Ransom, thought Dr. Jane Francis—dressed in the clothes and makeup of a male doctor people knew as Dr. James Phineas Tewes—shot by my own daughter.

Still, to see the operation so flawlessly done almost made it worth the experience. Certainly not for the patient, but for those who practiced surgery, and those like Jane who wanted to practice surgery, but could not. Christian was the penultimate surgeon. Watching him work again was, for Jane, like watching the miraculous before one's eyes. People spoke of how they wanted to see God's presence in things; if they only stopped to think of it—here it was, in the deft hands of one of His creations—Dr. Christian Fenger.

As these thoughts ebbed and flowed inside Jane's head while watching the master at work, she also realized that the man on the operating table was the man she'd fallen in love with all over again, and that he could as yet die—Dr. Fenger or no—of the trauma or infection. She privately admonished herself for "enjoying" the grand educational aspects of the moment. So far as surgery went, it was indeed remarkable. But it was also under circumstances that could end in the death of Alastair Ransom.

She had dragged her daughter, Gabrielle, into the theater to get a good position. But Gabby quickly became antsy watching Fenger perform surgery—not due to any squeamishness, as Gabby would one day be a skilled surgeon herself. Guilt had propelled her from the room. Guilt over having shot the patient. The accident with Ransom weighed too heavily on her heart, causing her inability to watch or to learn. Dr. Jane Francis—the real Jane Francis below the makeup—stood transfixed at the delicate operation that may or may not save Alastair for this world.

Even mesmerized at Christian's skill, Jane felt torn. She wanted to learn from Christian, but she wanted to rush out as well. Go behind her daughter and hold her and tell her it was not her fault—that all would be well. To lie to her. To fill her head with all the clichés of comfort necessary at such times; clichés seldom true. To tell her that things happened for a reason. That there is a purpose to all things great and small—regardless of one's limited perspective.

The city of Chicago itself had come about through either divine or satanic purpose, or perhaps both. The city could be seen as an enormous gift to cherish and nurture, or an enormous burden—a view that, if taken to extreme, might result in a desire to destroy it. Perhaps there was something of this dark emotion and purpose in the drive that sent a phantom night stalker scurrying about Chicago and the World's Fair for victims to garrote and set aflame. Perhaps not. Throughout history men of science, philosophy, theology, literature, even military genius were studied, but mankind must also begin to understand the genesis of the maniac, the deviant, and the killer. To understand the workings of the perverted mind in order to, perhaps one day, correct it, possibly through surgery.

Jane's daughter, Gabby, too, was fascinated by the possibility of understanding root causes of murder, and more of the population in general seemed curious, reading such works as Bram Stoker's The Snake's Pass, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and going to see Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performed live onstage.

"What's to understand?" Ransom had once doggedly asked Jane, when he knew her only as Dr. James Phineas Tewes. Speaking to Dr. Tewes, he'd added, "You don't need to understand the inner workings of a ratty ferret's brain to know that a bullet will end its career."

Shadows in the White City
An Inspector Alastair Ransom Mystery
. Copyright © by Robert Walker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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\shorts. 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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Shadows in the White City: An Inspector Alastair Ransom Mystery 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still part of the territory, the forest is a large woody area brimming with prey and herbs.
harstan More than 1 year ago
At the Chicago World¿s Fair of 1893, the Phantom of the Fair has killed seven people one of them an unborn child by garrote and then setting fire to them. Inspector Alastair Ransom has hack driver Waldo Denton arrested for the crimes. While he is recovering from a gunshot wound his nemesis police chief Nathan Kohler releases the man due to a lack of evidence. When Alastair learns of this he is livid and shadows Denton, trying to prove his guilt. He finally neutralizes Denton but he has little time to rest up on his laurels.---------------- A new predator is stalking Chicago and the media has dubbed him Leather Apron because that was what witnesses saw him wearing. This butcher saws the person when he is still alive and cuts out the organs and the fleshy part of the body. This has been going on for some time but when Senator Chapman¿s granddaughter is one of the victims, the police become actually involved. The senator offers Alastair, Koehler and a physician heavily in debt a fortune if they find the killer and bring him to the senator for some good old vigilante justice. Alastair is repulsed by the idea but and has no idea who the killer is but the groups of street children lead him to a horrifying and undeniable truth. Now all he has to do is locate the killer and figure out what to do with him.----------------------- Robert W. Walker writes great historical mysteries that are compelling, complex and full of interesting historical data that brings the late 1800¿s to life for the reader. His protagonist is a product of his times and his actions should be viewed in that light though readers use twenty-first century historiographic perspective. In some ways this police procedural is a cerebral mystery because Alistair has to gather clues from frightened homeless children and a madwoman who has an interest in the killer. SHADOW IN THE WHITE CITY is a must read to fans of historical mysteries.--------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Its about to pass her then she firmly slaps a paw on its back. It goes limp from a broken spine. Just to make sure its dead she bites its throat. It goes completely limp.*