The Magic Bullet: A Locked Room Mystery Featuring Shadwell Rafferty and Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – Mar 29 2011
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"Diabolically clever . . . This book works, first of all, as a classic locked-room puzzle in the John Dickson Carr tradition. It brings back the World War I look and feel of old St. Paul (Minnesotans, especially, will love this series, as will anyone interested in architecture), along with an expert overview of the tensions (a streetcar strike, civil unrest) of the time. Engaging characters and a hold-your-breath plot also make this one an all-around winner." —Booklist
"Millett’s excellent sixth Sherlock Holmes pastiche featuring Shadwell Rafferty offers a tantalizing, impossible crime. . . . John Dickson Carr fans will appreciate this intelligent homage to the master of the locked-room mystery." —Publishers Weekly
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Second, I enjoyed the characters and the setting, both the Twin Cities themselves and the World War I time period. The author did an excellent job of weaving in information about the labor strife of the times, the patriotism committees which sought to repress all civil rights, the growing temperance movement, and the government's control of production and pricing according to war-time guidelines.
Third, the book is well-written. The flow from scene to scene is smooth and the author is in complete control of sentences and paragraphs and point of view. This was a pleasure to read.
This is a locked room mystery, and an homage to the most famous writer of locked-room mysteries, J.D. Carr. If you like locked room mysteries, you will definitely enjoy this one. If you're a fan of locked room mysteries of the past, you will find references to them tucked into the pages of this book. Some of the less prominent characters in the book have been given the names of various detectives of locked-room mysteries. J.D. Carr himself appears in the story! So that's all fun.
I know that a lot of people really like Shadwell Rafferty, and I don't dislike him myself. But I don't understand why Larry Millett can't give up on Holmes and just write Rafferty books. It's false advertising to write a 300-plus page book with Holmes in maybe 8 pages, and call that "featuring Sherlock Holmes". If Holmes were actually in the book, sure. But not for "manuscript fragments" or as in the fourth book of the series, pages from John Waton's diaries. But I shouldn't complain, because at least Holmes's name is not actually in this title.
But Holmes's name is part of the subtitle of this book, "A Locked Room Mystery featuring Shadwell Rafferty and Sherlock Holmes," even though Holmes is in it for only one chapter, and at that, the chapter is represented to be a fragment of a manuscript by Dr. John Watson. So really, that's how long Sherlock Holmes is in this book: for a fragment of a manuscript. So it's kind of a stretch to say the book features Sherlock Holmes.
It's also kind of odd to say the book "features" Shadwell Rafferty, when it's actually all about him. If you like Shadwell Rafferty, and you chose this book because you wanted more stories about him, this book should be a very satisfactory read to you.
Another Minneapolis and St. Paul mystery, this one set in 1917 during the years of the Great War. "When financier Artemus Dodge is shot to death in his fortress-like office in the penthouse of St. Paul's tallest building, no one can figure out how someone was able to fire a bullet into the sealed room undetected." Engaging characters and a well developed plot blended with some great historical action gives the reader a wonderful entertaining ride right up to the gripping conclusion. Millett develops his stories and his characters very well; his style seems to closely emulate Doyle. In fact, one of Millett's greatest strength has been capturing Watson's voice, as well as the essence of Holmes and Watson's relationship. However, here, we find an older, but well developed (through many previous novels), fascinating character of Shadwell Rafferty and his partner, Washington Thomas. Millet knows a lot about the history and architecture of St. Paul, so the setting seems quite authentic. His knowledge of history and architecture adds a great depth of reality to the local color of his books. To experience his writing of the five Sherlock Holmes stories and especially for the evolution of the characters of Rafferty, Washington, and the background of Minnesota, I certainly recommend reading them in order; however, it is not really necessary for this book, which is really a true Shadwell Rafferty novel as opposed to the earlier Holmes pastiches.
I love some of the clever touches that Millett puts in his book. For example, a key character in "The Magic Bullet" is J. D. Carr, who appears to have named after the writer John Dickson Carr, a known writer of "locked room" mysteries - as "The Magic Bullet" is. Not only that, even in the story, J. D. Carr is named by Holmes to be the actual author of a book: "The Locked Room Mystery: Its Seven Common Types...." The listed author of this book is Dr. Gideon Fell, who just happens to be one of real author John Dickson Carr's more famous central characters. If you enjoy the "impossible mystery" (locker room mystery), I would suggest Carr's "The Case of the Constant Suicides." This one of the author's more interesting mysteries - three men die and the reader must determine who committed suicide and who was murdered. Like many of Carr's books, this is more of a "howdunit" than a "whodunit," and the reader follows Carr's detective, Dr. Gideon Fell. I love Millett's style of writing, his little touches and inside jokes; if you have not read the series, I would certainly recommend reading them.