Shadows in the White City

Written by Robert W. Walker
Review by Nicole Leclerc

Second in the Inspector Ransom series, set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, this novel is part mystery, part horror story. There are in fact three plots going on. One concerns bombings at Haymarket Square but is only hinted at and unsolved. Another plot deals with a serial killer, the Phantom of the Fair, which began in the first book and is possibly solved in the middle of this one. Finally, a second serial killer is introduced—the Leather Aprons murderer.

Walker’s Chicago is a place to avoid. The good guys are as evil as the bad ones. The characters, including Inspector Ransom, are immoral, obsessed or fraudulent and the society utterly corrupt. There are long portions of tedious pontifications followed by gruesome scenes in which the author seems to revel. I never felt I was really in that time and place despite thorough research and a listing of objects and facts: a case of being told and not shown. If you are squeamish, prefer stories that flow smoothly, or want to read about likeable characters, you might want to avoid this novel. If you enjoy horror and unbelievable plots and action, I suggest beginning with the first installment, City for Ransom, as this title doesn’t stand well on its own.