BOOK REVIEW: CITY OF THE ABSENT
This story starts during the closing day of the Worlds Fair in 1893 Chicago. We must remember that in that time of history things were much different. There were no modern conveniences that we take for granted today. But, there was much crime in many sections of the city that kept Police Inspector Alastair Ransom, as well as the rest of the Chicago police force quite busy. Things really heated up when the mayor of Chicago was killed on the day the fair closed. It even interrupted Inspector Ransom’s lovemaking with Dr. Jane Francis Tewes, the love of his life, when he was called immediately to the scene of the crime. In those days no one respected or wanted a female physician to care for them. Women were fine for nursing but not for patient care and diagnosis. As a result, Dr. Tewes had to masquerade as a male with appearance and clothing as well as changing her voice when she appeared anywhere in public in an emergency situation, such as the mayor’s killing.
The Pinkerton Detective Agency was very evident in the time of this story. They worked for the police at times as well as many corporations and well-to-do individuals. They were generally well respected so when an undercover female Pinkerton Agent, who was posing as a prostitute, was found murdered, the Chicago Police took interest. Especially Detective Ransom since he thought very close to this woman and wanted to get her killer. After seeing her body torn open and all her internal organs cut out, Pinkerton and all the police wanted this killer badly. Upon investigation they found others have been missing from the streets, mostly those that wouldn’t be missed by anyone because they were derelicts, bums, or homeless people. The female Pinkerton agent was the first well-known person that had been found but her discovery had opened up a “can of worms” to investigate and find who was performing these foul deeds.
Ransom did not get along well with his superiors and they loved to accuse him for many things he might or might not have done. He was a very experienced cop and knew the ropes and how to have things appear as they might not be. He was very instrumental in the search for these killer/killers despite butting heads with superiors. He had his list of suspects that didn’t always correspond with his bosses but he plowed onward in his investigation. He intermingled with Dr. Tewes, both the male and female version of her/him, and their love became an integral part of the story, as did Dr. Tewes daughter, Gabriel.
As you read this book it makes you think of what we have today compared to the rather primitive ways things were done in those times. One thing that was really different was having to get around in their taxis. Taxies were horse-drawn carriages, far different from our transportation modes today. They had to use that mode of transportation, as there were no cars or trucks. The police and fire departments rolled to a scene in their horse-drawn carriages too. Reading takes you back to those days and gives you a feel of those days over one hundred years ago.
The story was very good. Plots were well thought out and carried through the entire book. The characters were just that—characters—that would say or do most anything. Robert W. Walker’s story brings out the history and events of that time in history and even tells us about many of the exhibits and events that occurred during that 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. A very enjoyable story with surprises galore.
REVIEWED BY CY HILTERMAN
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