Detective in the White City by JD Crighton

This Was a Book I Knew I Had To Write

Philadelphia Police book from City of Philadelphia Archives
Philadelphia Police book from City of Philadelphia Archives

My interest in writing about Detective Frank P. Geyer came after the profound sadness I felt while reading in two popular books that Geyer’s beloved wife and only daughter were killed in a fire before his assignment to the H. H. Holmes murder case. I could not imagine the heartache and sorrow he must have felt but at the same time I wondered how he could pick up the pieces after a life-changing tragedy like that, and two short months afterwards begin a complicated cross-country, international murder investigation that thrust him into world-wide recognition.

A rare 1890-94 Manual of Councils for the City of Philadelphia
A rare 1890-94 Manual of Councils for the City of Philadelphia showing police salaries, including Detective Frank Geyer. Source: City of Philadelphia Archives.

I had to find out the truth and embarked on a year and a half research journey where I discovered (as I suspected) that Detective Geyer’s wife and daughter lived on. They never died in a fire and even more astounding to me was that Geyer’s great-great-grandson and his family moved twenty-eight hundred miles away from their hometown to within five miles of my home. And come to find out, he and I graduated from high schools, 2.7 miles apart, in the same year! 

This was a book I knew I had to write and I traveled to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and other surrounding areas, researching City of Philadelphia Archives and the Library of Congress records where I poured through old police employment roll books and files, criminal records, Rogue’s Police gallery, rare books, and many other valuable documents. It was important to include historical facts about the Civil War, 19th century Philadelphia, the police department, and high-profile cases Detective Geyer investigated. 

A warm-hearted thank you to Detective Geyer’s family, especially to his great-great grandson, who opened his heart to my journey and drove through several states to meet with me, share memories of his family, and for being a surprise high school rival. A thank you also to Geyer’s granddaughter, who is an amazing woman, and to Geyer’s relatives who welcomed me into their home. I’ll never forget their hospitality and for sharing precious memories. I know in my heart, Frank and Mary would be proud of all of them!



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