Imagine you have come home from an evening out on the town. It was a fairly typical evening. You had drinks, went to dinner and even took in a show. The only thing to spoil the evening was your dark mood. You went out after having a fight with your wife. She refused to give you the divorce you want. She laughed in your face when you begged her for the divorce. When you stormed out of your apartment you went to a bar and on the spur of the moment you picked up a woman to take to the show so as not to waste the ticket. The two of you made a deal to not divulge each other’s name, and at the end of the evening the two of you agreed to part company, never to meet again. It was purely a practical arrangement. When you arrive home you find you have company in the form of a squad of homicide detectives. They want to question you about why your wife happens to be dead, strangled with one of your own neckties. In questioning you, the detectives find out about your argument, and the reason for your argument. They perceive motive in this. They find the means for murder in the form of your necktie. Opportunity is present in that you cannot prove you were at a bar at the time your wife was murdered. The irony of it all is that the woman you met at the bar, the sole person who can provide you with an unbreakable alibi, is a total stranger, a non-person. She is a phantom in a city of millions who cannot be found and does not come forward. You were found guilty and sentenced to death and you now sit in the death house at the prison. Your only hope is a college friend who is turning the city upside down trying to find this “Phantom Lady.” Each chapter of the book details the search efforts made to free you. Each chapter details how each effort fails. Each chapter describes a day closer to your execution.

Cornell Woolrich was a master of suspense and a prolific contributor to pulp fiction publications. He lived the life of a recluse in hotels and wrote stories of beautiful terror. As the author of such suspense classics as “Rear Window,” and “I Married a Dead Man,” Cornell Woolrich delivers again with Phantom Lady. He does a more than admirable job in building a tale of terror that has both Fate and Justice toying with a man’s life. As the accused lays helpless behind bars of steel waiting for death, the author systematically crushes the protagonist’s hopes and dreams until finally, the reader finds him crouched in his cell listening to a priest giving him his last rites. The question of his survival is left dangling until the very end, and with an author such as Cornell Woolrich, the answer is not the expected one. This is not a book you read once. It is one to be read and then re-read. It is a story that mesmerizes the reader as each hope is dashed, each clue is run down, until all that is left is the approaching execution. Or is there more? You have to read the book to find out. And thus is the genius of Cornell Woolrich revealed in his masterful tale, Phantom Lady.

Authored by Robert D. Wheadon.

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