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Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance [Paperback]

Larry Millett
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 6 2012 Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage

As the city of Minneapolis prepares for a visit from President William McKinley, someone else prepares for murder. On the day before the visit, a union activist is found hanged, naked, outside a ruined mansion. A placard around his neck reads “THE SECRET ALLIANCE HAS SPOKEN.” Who is the alliance? What does it want? How was the victim involved with the city’s corrupt mayor? And why did he possess a photograph of a prominent citizen in a compromising position? Shadwell Rafferty searches for answers, encountering bribery, corruption, union organizers, anarchists, and conspiracy, putting himself in danger. But as luck would have it, his old friends Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson are on their way.

In this fourth installment of Larry Millett’s Minnesota Mystery series, Shadwell Rafferty commands center stage in a brand-new city. Packed with Millett’s signature historical and architectural detail, this book is deviously delightful.

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From Publishers Weekly

In Millet's fourth, well-researched Holmes in Minnesota adventure (after 2001's Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery), flamboyant Irish saloonkeeper Shadwell Rafferty scents an impending bloodbath when Michael O'Donnell, a young union man and mill worker, is found hanged, naked, from an oak tree in downtown Minneapolis. Around the victim's neck is a placard: "The Secret Alliance Has Spoken." Everyone assumes it is a warning from the paramilitary anti-union Secret Alliance, but no one seems to understand its significance. Rafferty seeks help from Holmes, who's in New York on a case for John Jacob Astor. The world's greatest private consulting detective doesn't enter the action until the novel's half over, though entries from Dr. Watson's journal at the start of each chapter keep the reader informed of his thoughts and movements. Turn-of-the-century Minneapolis on the eve of a visit from President McKinley comes vividly to life as one of the most corrupt cities in America, rife with evil schemes and dirty deeds. Rafferty is no deductive wizard like Holmes, but a street-smart, methodical man who plods from witness to witness to discover the truth behind O'Donnell's lynching, which, in the end, proves amazingly complex. A columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the author is obviously in love with local history. Both Holmes fans and historical mystery buffs should be pleased. Agent, Bob Barnett.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In Millett's Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance, Shadwell Rafferty, an Irish saloon keeper and sometime detective, returns for his fourth adventure. The book opens with the gruesome lynching of Michael O'Donnell, a union activist, by a secret anti-union organization in a very corrupt Minneapolis in 1899. As various complications ensue, including the visit of President McKinley to the Twin Cities, Rafferty realizes that he is out of his depth and enlists the aid of Holmes and Watson. The novel contains structural flaws that will mar the experience even for readers who accept the absurd premise of the presidential visit. The narrative flow is periodically broken by entries from Watson's journals, written in an elliptical style that omits certain short words and refers to characters by their initials. On the other hand, Millett provides a map and 20 pages of historical and explanatory notes at the end of his book, which lend an air of verisimilitude. Still, if library purchase of only one of these is possible, the Kendrick is the better bet. Fred Gervat, Concordia Coll., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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WED., SEPT. 27, 1899, WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL, N.Y., 10:30 P.M.: Arrived here at 4:30 P.M. after smooth passage from Southampton aboard Campania. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Keeps Holmes too much of a secret April 25 2003
Unlike the first three books of the series, Holmes and Watson are secondary characters here with Shadwell Rafferty taking center stage, which means this book will be a disappointment to all but those readers who've developed as much of an attachment to Rafferty as to Holmes.
In fact, you'll need to go through more than 1/3 of the book before the Baker Street duo actually arrives in Minnesota, and even then, you'll never be reading the Watsonian-style chronicle you're accustomed to. Instead, Watson's contribution is presented in the form of hastily written journal entries, which are full of abbreviations parenthetically explained by Millett in his role as "editor." The other parts of the story are filled in with standard prose---more or less from Rafferty's point of view---but not written in his voice.
This creates a somewhat disjointed narrative, and worse, an irritating rhythm, the brief, fast-paced journal material always being followed by the longer, plodding prose.
It seems rather obvious that Millett used this book to shift his focus from Holmes/Watson to Rafferty and his partner, G. W. Thomas (Thomas is shown in a way that unmistakably parallels Watson), and I wouldn't be the least surprised if Millett evolves the series into one of Rafferty's own.
I'd be sorry to see a decently written Holmes series end, but I do like Rafferty, and think Millett deserves some praise for his creation and development of the character. I've also grown to admire Millett's ability to weave fictional characters and elements of mystery into his state's history (If you've been reading this series, but skipping his historical notes, you've actually missed a bit).
Ultimately, I rate the book only three stars because it doesn't have enough Sherlock to appeal strongly to a Sherlockian, and because if it is indeed a transitional volume between a Holmes series and a Rafferty series, it feels like an awkward transition.
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Larry Millett is a columnist for a newspaper in the twin cities. He apparently is also a Sherlock Holmes fan. Those two things seem to have combined to convince him to write these Sherlock Holmes in Minneapolis books, which are very fun. The first two were very good, but the author has introduced an American counterpart, after a fashion, for Sherlock. This is Shadwell Rafferty, a saloon keeper and veteran of the Civil War who has more street smarts than Holmes, if not quite the education and deliberation. Holmes, in Millett's hands anyway, admires Rafferty's rough detective skills.
In the latest installment, Rafferty is hired by an old lady friend and competitor who owns a saloon. One of her bartenders has moved on to union agitating, and gotten himself killed. The original verdict is that he tried to rape a woman, and was lynched by a mob, but that theory soon dissipates, and is replaced by the idea that an anti-union conspiracy might be responsible. The plot takes many twists and turns before the crime is solved.
One problem is that, given the title, you would expect Holmes to be more involved in the plot. Instead Sherlock and Dr. Watson are trapped in New York City, investigating some sort of controversy involving the Astor brothers. Holmes and Watson stew about this for half the book, without the reader knowing what they are upset about (it's never explained) before they terminate their business and make their way to Minnesota. For the first half of the book, Rafferty does all of the investigating.
Once they arrive in Minnesota, Holmes and Watson find themselves involved in various conspiracies and scandals, involving a shady mayor and one of the most famous real life detectives of the 19th century. This part of the book is the most entertaining, to be frank.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging mystery Oct. 18 2001
In 1899, to the excitement of many of the Twin City residents, President McKinley is coming to Minneapolis. Apparently not every one is filled with good feelings with the pending visit from the country's leader. Majesty Burke calls fellow saloon owner Shadwell Rafferty to sobbingly inform him that assailants killed and strung up her barman, union activist Michael O'Donnell. The culprits left Michael naked except for an ominous sign stating that "THE SECRET ALLIANCE HAS SPOKEN".

The police chief says that Michael was killed because he was "taking liberties" with a young girl. Maj denies that her barman was not a pediophile and persuades Shad to investigate though he knows how dangerous the Secret Alliance is with its antiunion busting. With the help from his two visiting friends from London, Holmes and Watson, Shad follows a meandering trail filled with danger.

The fourth book centering on Sherlock Holmes' Twin City cases is an engaging tale that fans of the great detective will enjoy. SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET ALLIANCE brings Holmes' American host more to the forefront of the investigation than in the previous three novels, which adds an original spry twist to the a tale loaded with copious twists and turns. Even while bringing Shad in more of a lead role, Larry Millet continues his ability to capture the essence of Holmes and Watson while providing a vivid look at America at the turn of the previous century.

Harriet Klausner
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1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointed Holmes fan June 20 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This can not be a true review as I have not yet been able to finish the book. I loved the 1st 3 books of this series and highly recommend them. In those books, Mr. Millett captured the "real" voice of Dr. Watson (as created by Doyle.) This book is all over the place with different points of view -- a street person who catches rats, Shadwell Rafferty, an axiliary character, the author and when we hear about Holmes it's in the awful form of journal entries with initials and ampersands that slow the reading. I intent to try again to finish the book, but think I'll find the next one at the library rather than buying it as I did the first 4, just in case Millett has truly abandoned Holmes in favor of Raffety and is tired of writing in that beloved voice that he was clever enough to re-create when he chose to.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Secret Alliance Revealed
The true secret alliance is between the publisher and the author, as they attempt to con and bamboozle the innocent public into thinking that this is a "Sherlock Holmes"... Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2004 by jrmspnc
1.0 out of 5 stars Millett is getting worse and worse
I enjoyed "The Red Demon;" I enjoyed "The Ice Palace Murders" much less. I didn't enjoy "The Secret Alliance. Read more
Published on May 13 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes and the missing character
How Sherlock Holmes' name can be used in the title with good faith is outside my understanding. I've read all of Millett's "Holmes" books, and this story is not only the... Read more
Published on March 4 2003 by Fecklar
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Millett's Best
Disappointing. Sherlock Holmes basically disappears from the book - except for the stupid diary form that is practically unreadable - and Shadwell Rafferty does not take the stage. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002 by S. L. Cheek
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sequel
Larry Millett's fourth book is easily the weakest in the series. Holmes and Watson barely make cameo appearances, it's all the annoyingly stereotyped Shadwell Rafferty. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars A disapointing book
I really have to say that I was disapointed with this book. The writing became longwinded and boring, and the story just seemed to drag on and on. Read more
Published on April 3 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars An Added perspective
Despite a typo in the first sentence of the book, a definite turnoff, this is an interesting and entertaining tale in the usual Millett Minneapolis setting. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2001 by Jack R. Kincade
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner
Larry Millett has developed a character who not only rivals Sherlock Holmes, but exceeds him. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance is the best of an excellent series.
Published on Nov. 6 2001 by Mike Darukie
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