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City of the Absent
Inspector Alastair Ransom Mysteries #3

by Robert W. Walker

      On the Michigan State Fairgrounds, just inside the Detroit City limits, stands a 25 ft. likeness of a wood burning kitchen stove from the Michigan Stove Company. This all-oak creation had been prominently displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Iím sure that somewhere in my family archives thereís a photo of me standing in front of it.

Robert W. Walkerís City of the Absent begins on the day that Chicagoís Columbian Exposition ends after a six month run. The last day ends on a sad note as the mayor of Chicago is assassinated on his own front lawn. While the media focuses on the cityís loss, nobody seems to be paying attention to the disappearance of several indigents. Their misfortunes have no impact on society. But when an undercover Pinkerton agent, who gets a little too close to these "unimportant" disappearances is murdered and disemboweled, Inspector Alistair Ransom of the Chicago Police Department is assigned to investigate. Ransom is somewhat of a maverick in a police force where corruption has a strong foothold. The inspectorís strong sense of right and wrong is what guides him regardless of what the bureaucracy wants.

Ransom has, among his informants, a young homeless boy whoís learned very well how to survive on the streets. When the boy comes to the inspector after being molested by a priest, Ransom becomes enraged and vows vengeance. He has a diabolical scheme in mind and actually confronts the priest. In the melee that follows, the priest suffers a serious injury inflicted by someone in the mob; someone other than Inspector Ransom. The crooked Chief of Police sets out to hang Alistair Ransom for the crime. Meanwhile, poor street people continue to drop out of sight, their bodies and organs being harvested for "medical research."

Ransomís lady-friend happens to be a doctor who disguises her gender in order to carry on a workable practice in a prejudiced Chicago society. While the Inspector is busy trying to clear his name, she comes to the rescue and helps track down the killers.

City of the Absent is an exciting book. Robert Walker never allows the action to slow down. The chapters seem to be exactly the right length and the pace is about as perfect as Iíve ever seen. The research is detailed and paints an accurate picture of Chicago as it prepares to move into the twentieth century. Itís a magical time in our past when telephones were in their infancy and electricity was just beginning to creep through the city. The story is as true to history as it is to the legacy of Inspector Alistair Ransom. I read a lot of books but this one stands out as a masterpiece. This book has my strongest endorsement.

The Book

December 2007
Historical Mystery
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The Reviewer

Dennis Collins
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Dennis Collins is the author of The Unreal McCoy andthe second installment in this series, Turn Left at September. .
© 2008