Alice and the Assassin: An Alice Roosevelt Mystery

Image of Alice and the Assassin: An Alice Roosevelt Mystery
Release Date: 
April 10, 2017
Crooked Lane Books
Reviewed by: 

“The fictionalized Alice is an entertaining creation and one of whom the actual Alice probably would’ve approved . . .”

Joseph St. Clair has been a cowboy and a lawman. Then he met Theodore Roosevelt and became one of his Rough Riders. Now St. Clair’s a member of the Secret Service and facing his greatest challenge yet: being the bodyguard for the president’s daughter.

How difficult can it be? Watching out for a seventeen-year-old girl?

“Babysitting Alice seemed like a cushy job and I told the president it beat charging up San Juan Hill.”

Soon, St. Clair will wish he was still riding up San Juan Hill dodging bullets.

It’s 1902, and it has been officially decided Leon Czolgosz acted alone in assassinating President McKinley. When Alice learns no additional conspirators are considered, she immediately becomes curious about any associates the assassin had.

Before he knows it, St. Clair’s no longer simply rolling Alice’s cigarettes, driving her to her bookie’s, and taking her out for hotdogs and beer. He’s chauffeuring the president’s daughter around New York as she hunts up people who might’ve known Leon Czolgosz, from anarchists to Mafia dons.

“‘Tell me again why we’re doing this, Miss Alice?’

‘It’s about the assassination, where no one else looked before. Something happened in the immigrant community which triggered Czolgosz’s actions.’”

Alice has decided Czolgosz didn’t work alone. She may be on the right track, especially when she and St. Clair widen their horizons to the upper reaches of New York state, The Great Erie & Albany Boat Company, and a mysterious man called the Archangel.

The Great Erie is hiring immigrants to work on one of its projects and the Archangel is s involved in a less than savory way. More than once as they delve into the Archangel’s origins, St. Clair finds himself on the receiving end of some violent fisticuffs.

A murdered hit man, a secluded wife kept almost a prisoner by her husband, a blackmailing brother, and a mistress installed at a ritzy hotel are among the facts they discover. But how does each fit into the assassination plot?

The cowboy and the president’s daughter are getting in over their heads, at least St. Clair thinks so. Nevertheless, he’s prepared to see this adventure through to the end to determine why Leon Czolgosz killed McKinley, solve several other murders, and get Alice back to nothing more dangerous than an afternoon tea with her aunt.

Readers may think Alice has more aplomb and self-possession than the usual seventeen year old, but this was another time and another place.  Having grown up in a political atmosphere in which “men look for positions in Washington, women look for dinner invitations to the White House, the old families, the newly rich” exist side by side, she’s very aware of social status and can sometimes be a very prepossessing young woman.

Because of this, occasionally, St. Clair has to remind himself how young she really is.

Alice and the Assassin is an enjoyable tale of a headstrong young woman, knowledgeable of the manners of her class as well as her place in the society of the day. Alice’s upbringing is contrasted sharply with St. Clair’s through their good-natured but oft times sharp give-and-take. Though St. Clair is the author’s creation, fleshing out the plot with real-life personages, descriptions of New York of the early 20th century, and events circa that time give the story a comfortably authentic air.

Koreto has written a delightful book, full of the contrasts of Alice’s audacity with her social status. It has been said the president once commented, "I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both."

By all accounts, Alice Roosevelt’s life was lived as fully and flamboyantly as she could manage. The fictionalized Alice is an entertaining creation and one of whom the actual Alice probably would’ve approved.