On tour April 1-30, 2018
In 1902 New York, Alice Roosevelt, the bright, passionate, and wildly unconventional daughter of newly sworn-in President Theodore Roosevelt, is placed under the supervision of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, ex-cowboy and veteran of the Rough Riders. St. Clair quickly learns that half his job is helping Alice roll cigarettes and escorting her to bookies, but matters grow even more difficult when Alice takes it upon herself to investigate a recent political killing–the assassination of former president William McKinley.
Concerned for her father’s safety, Alice seeks explanations for the many unanswered questions about the avowed anarchist responsible for McKinley’s death. In her quest, Alice drags St. Clair from grim Bowery bars to the elegant parlors of New York’s ruling class, from the haunts of the Chinese secret societies to the magnificent new University Club. Meanwhile, St. Clair has to come to terms with his hard and violent past, as Alice struggles with her growing feelings for him.
Like the author, I have a fondness for stories set in old New York and I fully appreciate attention to detail and an ability to evoke the opulence and the squalor of the city in the early days of the 20th century and beyond. R.J. Koreto delivers on both levels, moving his characters seamlessly from the splendor of the University Club and the Roosevelt mansion to smoke-filled bars, betting parlors, and dockyards. His two primary characters here – Alice and St. Clair – show tremendous promise for development in future adventures.
Koreto has captured the spirit and independence of Alice, who was known for her eccentricities and willful behavior in real life, in a portrait that seems fairly accurate and is certainly appealing in a heroine. She is on the brink of adulthood – still just 17 and with many of the mannerisms of a child, but also a highly intelligent, creative, fearless, and determined woman. She is a creature of the Gilded Age – raised in tremendous wealth and privilege – but also a child of tragedy, having lost her mother at an early age. Koreto handles Alice’s contradictory nature beautifully, giving us a heroine who is fierce yet vulnerable at the same time. I am excited to see where Koreto takes her next!
Juxtaposing the wealth and privilege of the Roosevelt family is Joseph St. Clair. A true cowboy who served as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and now a Secret Service man, he has been tapped by the President himself to guard Alice. Much older than his charge and with much more worldly experience, St. Clair is also a pussycat. He is supremely respectful of the “gentler sex” but finds himself in the awkward position of being the object of Alice’s affection. What unfolds is truly a schoolgirl crush, which Koreto handles with great reserve and care. Joseph is gentle and respectful to Alice but definitely keeps her at arms’ length. He is fully aware of his position and comports himself as a truly good man, until it’s time to not be a good man, meaning he can handle himself in a fight.
St. Clair and Alice make an odd couple for sure, but they fit together nicely. Simply put, Alice is the “brains” and St. Clair the “brawn” but they both give and take across those boundaries. St Clair is the friend who always has Alice’s back, but is also the protector who will tell her “no” when the situation calls for it, and has the intelligence to understand when that occurs. Alice is never short on ideas, but sometimes gets ahead of herself. Her life experience is terribly limited, so she acknowledges St. Clair’s broader experience when necessary. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a new series that has two better matched protagonists.
This is the beginning of a new and exciting historical mystery series that will appeal to many readers. The writing is simple enough that this hovers just between YA and Adult literature. I would have devoured this when I was 13, but I still enjoyed it immensely at 55! Highly recommended.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: April 11th 2017
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 1683311124 (ISBN13: 9781683311126)
Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #1
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Read an excerpt:
I had a nice little runabout parked around the corner, and Alice certainly enjoyed it. It belonged to the Roosevelt family, but I was the only one who drove it. Still, the thing about driving a car is that you can’t easily get to your gun, and I didn’t like the look of the downtown crowds, so I removed it from its holster and placed it on the seat between us.
“Don’t touch it,” I said.
“I wasn’t going to,” said Alice.
“Yes, you were.”
I had learned something the first time I had met her. I was sent to meet Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, in the White House, and we met on the top floor. He was there, shaking his head and cleaning his glasses with his handkerchief. “Mr. St. Clair, welcome to Washington. Your charge is on the roof smoking a cigarette. The staircase is right behind me. Best of luck.” He put his glasses back on, shook my hand, and left.
It had taken me about five minutes to pluck the badly rolled cigarette out of Alice’s mouth, flick it over the edge of the building, and then talk her down.
“Any chance we could come to some sort of a working relationship?” I had asked. She had looked me up and down.
“A small one,” she had said. “You were one of the Rough Riders, with my father on San Juan Hill, weren’t you?” I nodded. “Let’s see if you can show me how to properly roll a cigarette. Cowboys know these things, I’ve heard.”
“Maybe I can help—if you can learn when and where to smoke them,” I had responded.
So things had rolled along like that for a while, and then one day in New York, some man who looked a little odd wanted—rather forcefully—to make Alice’s acquaintance on Fifth Avenue, and it took me all of three seconds to tie him into a knot on the sidewalk while we waited for the police.
“That was very impressive, Mr. St. Clair,” she had said, and I don’t think her eyes could’ve gotten any bigger. “I believe that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.” She looked at me differently from then on, and things went a little more smoothly after that. Not perfect, but better.
Anyway, that afternoon I pulled into traffic. It was one of those damp winter days, not too cold. Workingmen were heading home, and women were still making a few last purchases from peddlers before everyone packed up for the day.
“Can we stop at a little barbershop off of Houston?” she asked. I ran my hand over my chin. “Is that a hint I need a shave?” I’m used to doing it myself.
“Don’t be an idiot,” she said, with a grin. “That’s where my bookie has set up shop. I’ve had a very good week.”
Excerpt from Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto. Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.
R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.
In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.
He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.
With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Catch Up With R.J. Koreto On his Website, Goodreads Page, Twitter @RJKoreto, & on Facebook @ ladyfrancesffolkes!
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2 thoughts on “Alice & the Assassin by R.J. Koreto”
I definitely need to read this book after reading your review!
Thank you for such a richly detailed review of my book! Much appreciated.
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