Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon: A Minnesota Mystery by Larry Millett #SherlockHolmes #Minnesota #BookReview #AudiobookReview

When a cunning villain sets out to destroy the Great Northern railway in America, Holmes comes face-to-face with all manner of frontier characters. He also becomes attentive to one woman’s (and suspect’s) charms. But charm gives way to terror when Holmes goes up against an arsonist called the Red Demon.

Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks) is the first in a series of books where the great sleuth and Dr. Watson travel to America to solve crimes in Minnesota. Years ago I went through a phase where I read all the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and then I continued by reading every other version by many different authors. I read this book years ago and was happy to discover it included with my Audible Plus membership, so I decided to revisit the book.

When I first read the book 25 years ago, I knew nothing of James J. Hill, but in 2018, when I visited my oldest brother in Minneapolis, I took the family to the Hill House in St. Paul, on the infamous Summit Avenue (celebrated Minnesota authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Garrison Keillor both called Summit Avenue home at one time or another), now a museum. I learned about the railroad magnate and got to tour the largest home in the state of Minnesota. However, you do not need to know a lot about Hill in order to enjoy this book. You just need to know that he was a very powerful man in the mid-west during the Gilded Age.

As with many Sherlock Holmes pastiche, the beginning of the book goes on about how one of Holmes’ lost cases written by Dr. Watson was found and how it was verified to be real. As I’ve read dozens if not more of these types of book, it gets a little old, although hearing how a manuscript wound up in Minnesota is quite the twist.\

For a Holmes and Watson story from a first-time Sherlock author, I thought the writing was tight and in keeping with the spirit of Conan Doyle. There are surprisingly few plot holes in the story of the Red Demon, and the book has end notes to clarify what in the story has a basis in fact. I appreciate that. Whenever I read historical fiction of any type, I always wonder what parts of the story are true and which are the author’s imagination. Millett is able to weave fact and fiction rather well.

I do have one small complaint, and that is that Watson seems a bit more thick-in-the-head than in the canon. He comes off a bit more like the Nigel Bruce version of Holmes in the Basil Rathbone Holmes’ movies. That was a little disappointing, but as other writers have done it as well, it is not entirely unexpected. Sometimes it makes for the perfect plot device, and that was the case here.

I’m so glad I discovered this book many years ago and was happy to revisit. If you love a good mystery and don’t mind the thought of Sherlock Holmes in America solving a case, this is for you. And if you enjoyed this mystery, then you’ll love the next book in the series, which I’ll be revisiting in the near future.

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