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Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon [Paperback]

Larry Millett
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 18 2011 Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage
In the summer of 1994, a workman at the historic mansion of railroad baron James J. Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, stumbles on a long-hidden wall safe. When experts arrive to open the safe and examine its contents, they make an astonishing discovery. There, inside, is a handwritten manuscript bearing the signature of John H. Watson, M.D.
The manuscript contains the story of how Sherlock Holmes and Watson traveled to Minnesota to track a murderous arsonist—known only as the Red Demon—who is threatening both Hill and his Great Northern Railway. Set against the backdrop of the real, devastating Hinckley forest fire of 1894, Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon is the tense and atmospheric first novel in Larry Millett’s classic series of adventures that brought Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to Minnesota.

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From Publishers Weekly

Placing Sherlock Holmes in the pineries of Northern Minnesota in 1894 may not have been a three-pipe problem for Minneapolis architecture columnist Millett (Lost Twin Cities). However, there is little here but smoke and facade. The real and devastating Hinckley, Minn., fire of 1894 serves as the historical backdrop when Holmes is hired by railroad tycoon James J. Hill to find the Red Demon, the man "who is trying to burn down one of his railroads." After arriving in Hinckley to investigate, Holmes and Watson are attacked by feared logger Jean Baptiste LeGrande and rescued by Tom "Boston" Corbett, who claims to have killed John Wilkes Booth. The Town Marshall is murdered before clues lead the London duo to identify the Red Demon and the injury that motivates his actions. The final duel between Holmes and the Red Demon on a burning trestle is gripping, but this action is too little too late. Millett capitalizes on expected Sherlockian gimmicks ("parlor tricks" of deduction, hints of unrecorded grotesque cases, Holmes's masterful disguises and Watson's pomposity) but fails to probe beneath the surface of Holmes's popular image.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

An urgent, lucrative demand from railroad tycoon James J. Hill sends Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to the pine forests of Minnesota, which a letter-writer calling himself the Red Demon has threatened to set afire, destroying 85 miles of Hill's Eastern Minnesota Railway along with the surrounding landscape. Once ensconced in rustic Hinckley, Holmes and Watson visit a den of iniquity called Mother Mary's, where Watson's person undergoes vile indignities at the hands of Laura and Dora, the Jack Pine Twins; outfit themselves as lumberjacks (``You look quite woodsy,'' Watson tells Holmes) in order to confront a sinister logger in the deep woods, where they're rescued by a messiah in buckskins; and try to read the clues in the disappearance of Hill's agent and the murder of the town marshal (``MARSHAL WILLIAM THOMPSON INCINERATED IN HOME--BULLET IN HIS BRAIN--FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED,'' the Hinckley Enterprise sagely reports before the Red Demon can visit a gruesome, fact-based catastrophe on the train tracks, pine trees, and citizens of Hinckley. Minnesota journalist Millett has mastered neither the cadences nor the exclusions of Watson's narrative--the story is full of tedious details Watson would have excised--but its colorful, improbable incidents and its attention to clues make it a respectable example of mid-grade Sherlockian foolery. A sequel in St. Paul is hinted. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
It is a historical fact that on September 1, 1894 a tremendous forest fire destroyed the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, killing over 400 people. The fire was so intense, that it can be described as a firestorm, a fire so powerful that the updrafts are capable of sucking people into the fire. As a consequence of the destruction, a forest fire monitoring program was begun in the United States. That event serves as the backdrop for this tale featuring the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
A railroad baron named James J. Hill sends an agent from northern Minnesota to Baker Street in England to hire Holmes to come to Minnesota and bring an arsonist to justice. The agent succeeds in convincing Holmes to take the case, so he and his companion, Dr John Watson, journey to Minnesota. Upon arriving, they read a note sent by the arsonist, which was signed using the name Red Demon. This starts the case full throttle, where the search for the Red Demon forces Holmes and Watson to encounter a wide assortment of frontier characters. They interview and interact with a corrupt Sheriff, the local madam and some of her best girls, rough-hewn lumberjacks, townspeople and the people who run the railroad. Holmes is his usual persistent self, doing battle with those who would kill for gain and Watson is as loyal and at times as bumbling as ever. Holmes and Watson experience the great fire and emerge unscathed and victorious over their very dangerous enemy.
The author has created the appropriate mix of the history of the region as well as the style of the original stories of Sherlock Holmes. While there are a few times where you can recognize style differences and realize that this story was written nearly a century after the originals, they are not very numerous. It kept my attention from the first page to the last. If you are a fan of mysteries, especially the style used to describe the escapades of Sherlock Holmes, then I strongly recommend that you read this book.
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Larry Millett's "The Red Demon" was a decent attempt at a Holmes pastiche. However, there were many flaws that, unfortunately, detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the book. Having myself read the entire canon and multiple pastiches, I found that Millett seemed extrodinarily intent on proving to the reader that he had done his research. Throughout the book, Millett's Watson refers CONSTANTLY to previous Holmes' cases, many of which Doyle never ever wrote! (These were explained as one of the many "unwritten Watson accounts" in the footnotes.)
And speaking of footnotes, they over-ran the entire novel. They ranged from clarifying innumerable details about the Minnesota railway, to basic facts any Holmesian would know. I found both Watson's uncharacteristic voice and the many times needless footnotes distracting.
Millet's Watson proves slower than usual. And as for Holmes, while the entire mystery was interesting, I believe Doyle's Holmes would have discovered the "missing motive" long before the final 30 pages of the novel. It made for a great climax to the novel -- but I felt as though I had to read 250 pages of un-Holmes' like investigation before the traditional Holmes' narrative finally shone through.
The novel overall was entertaining, and the Millett paints a beautiful picture of Minnesota at the turn of the century. However, as I enjoy Holmes more than I do Minnesota history, I won't be reading any of his subsequent novels.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Millett, Give Me a Break! April 11 2003
After reading the disasters that Meyer claims to be the further adventures of Sherlock Holmes's ("The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" and "The West End Horror"), I thought that Millett would provide a better treatment of the Holmes's world. He DID NOT.
I had to suffer reading this book, which is not a mystery (just like the horrible "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution"), there was not real interesting way to reach the villain.
It begins in London, where Holmes was invited by a rich American to Minnesota. This is the first author I read for who brings Holmes to America. That is not bad. Changing the British spelling into American was not bad either. The plot was.
If you have read the Doyle's version of Holmes you would not like this new version. Here Holmes did not appear to be so intelligent. Watson was as dumb as ever.
After reaching Minnesota, Holmes starts his investigation which leads him to a whore house, and there a strange episode occurs to Watson with two twin prostitutes. I did not like it.
In my opinion, Millett's style had ruined Holmes.
In the end a big fire takes place, and Holmes helps people ... as if he is a fire fighter. Anyway, I hated the book.
You are welcome to read it, but do not expect me to urge you to do so.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The ring of authenticity March 3 2003
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this "lost" Watsonian manuscript may well be authentic.
Don't misunderstand me here; I'm not making this claim for _all_ of Larry Millett's Holmes adventures. I'm prepared to accept the possibility that Holmes got to Minnesota once -- even twice, since the first trip was supposedly at the behest of James J. Hill and it makes sense that Hill might summon him again. But four or five times, with a lost MS every time, is stretching it a bit.
Nevertheless the most obvious objections don't tell against this particular tale, even if we want to be suspicious of its increasing number of sequels. So the setting "happens to be" Millett's own home turf? Well, Millett is a well-respected historian of the Twin Cities; if Holmes had been involved in a case or two in Minnesota, who would you _expect_ to come into possession of a lost MS telling the tale?
The tale itself is well-told and in the Watsonian style. Oh, the characterization doesn't always quite ring true (and indeed there is at least one scene that looks suspiciously as though it has been colored by Millett's own idea of comic relief). Nor is that characterization terribly deep; Sherlockians/Holmesians looking for Holmes-Watson interaction of the "old vintage" may be somewhat disappointed.
But let's remember that Watson was (allegedly) not writing this tale for publication; some of his usual touches may therefore be absent for entirely legitimate reasons. We may even entertain suspicions that Millett himself has fluffed up the writing a bit here and there and still accept that the MS itself may be authentic.
And there are enough nice touches to support the claim of authenticity.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting
I liked this book. Millett isn't Conan Doyle, and his Holmes is a little ruder, coarser, and not quite as brilliant. But, then, nobody will ever be Conan Doyle. Read more
Published on April 30 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars The game is afoot! (Spoiler)
I am a Sherlock Holmes fan. Not a rabid fan, but a fan nonetheless. I cannot possibly successfully debate the finer points of Holmes trivia with anyone, but I do enjoy the... Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2002 by "patchbunny"
2.0 out of 5 stars It Just Doesn't Work!
Imagine! During the demolition of a 19th Century mansion a whole trove of unknown Sherlock Holmes adventures, manuscripts written in Dr. Watson's own hand, are uncovered! Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2001 by Ralph G. Watermeier
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good....
I found this book to a quick read (although it is over 300 pages) and a worthwhile one. I have not read Holmes stories in quite a while, but when I discovered this book in a... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2001 by "tonyl7"
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent pastiche, satisfies without thrills...
As a huge Holmes fan, and great admirer of Doyle, I am always looking for a pastiche that will transport me into the world of Holmes and Watson. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2001 by Bonnie
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment's afoot
Oh,dear. Mr. Millet has, I'm afraid, quite missed the mark. Let's say it right off - 'Too Long'. Over 300 dreary pages, when the story could have been told in half that. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable Holmes in an unlikely location
Larry Millett's "Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon" takes the Great Detective from his usual London haunts into the pinelands of northern Minnesota. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2000 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Holmes in Minnesotta
I didn't think it would work, Sherlock Holmes AND Minnesotta. However, Millett pulls it off excellently. Read more
Published on July 24 2000 by Nicholas Fry
4.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of a great series
The first of Millett's Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota series, I read this after "Ice Palace Murders," but the order of reading isn't crucial. Read more
Published on July 11 2000 by M. Ritchie
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