Alice and the Assassin: R. J. Koreto
Impetuous hard-headed, deviant, crafty and ingenuous is some words that describe Alice Roosevelt. The author states in the author’s notes that he researched Alice Roosevelt and remained true to her personality where it suited the plot. Alice is assigned Joseph St. Clair as the Secret Service Agent that would guard her as long as her father, Theodore Roosevelt was President. Fearful that he would be the target of the next assassination after McKinley, Alice goes on her own pilgrimage you might say to uncover more information about the man who killed him and anyone else connected with him and a group called the anarchists. She is determined to learn more, she threatens, pushes her way into many places, dares anyone not to listen to her or allow her to question them, at times she is overbearing and overpowering to everyone she comes in contact with. Because she is a Roosevelt she feels she is above everyone else, privileged and can handle anything using her last name. St. Clair was a former Montana cowboy, then Rough Rider and now bodyguard for Alice a willful teen who uncovers every stone, stops at nothing and allows no one to stand in her way when she’s on a quest for information.
Alice might be only 17 but somehow when President Roosevelt became the President after the death of McKinley, Alice remained living with her aunt, Anna Roosevelt Cowles whose rules she had better follow to the letter of the law except when she does not. Her behavior is unconventional, outlandish and yet she manages to drink, smoke and believe it or not has her own bookie and St. Clair goes along with her dalliances. The author’s research into her character is extensive but at times he adds the spice and rowdiness at the expense of St. Clair and many others. St. Clair loves to play poker but never gets a chance to have much free time as Alice is bent on learning more about Leon Czolgosz who received the death penalty as a result of his speedy trial. Alice thinks that there are other anarchists that might target her father the reason why she is exploring this avenue and others. Meeting another anarchist strengthens were motivation and Alice and St. Clair need to make sure he is heavily armed because this woman is dangerous. Alice looks into immigrants, alliances that are allied with Peter and his family and what she uncovers is startling and places her and St. Clair in the crosshairs of a dangerous man called the Archangel who they are searching for and have yet to find.
I love the history that Koreto brings to light about the time period, the mores, and the rules for young people and how Alice seems to circumvent them all. Alice seems to have developed through the author her own myriad of prejudices to those that are not of her social standing, using crude behavior and language at times to handle situations and not stopping until she succeeds at learning more about the death of McKinley and any associates that lead her to learning more about the Van Schylers.
The story is told in the first person by St. Clair as we hear his frustrations, his anger and his willingness to deal with Alice but will he ever put his foot down and say “enough is enough? Alice and the van Schuyler family are quite telling as she manages to gear the discussions and outcome in her favor.
After a while the story just centers around dealing with immigrants, poorer areas in New York, police officers and chiefs, threats to those that dare to defy or not allow her access or the information that she wants and needs and an attitude that can put people off even though she is the daughter of the President. Alice gets away with breaking the rules, laws, entering an all men’s club and strong arming the staff to present her to anyone she wants to question and even expects service from the waiters.
Learning more about a man named Mr. Dunilsky and someone named Urquhart, who is friends with Dunilsky. Great Erie Albany and Boat Company is at the heart of this conspiracy and is an invisible company. Alice expands by telling Urquhart that her search led to Dunilsky is turn is the cousin of Leon Czolgosz who worked on the Great Lakes. Urquhart is the one that sent a private investigator on her but he won’t affirm or confirm that Great Erie was his client. Threatening to go to the Herald and tell is all she claimed that she would even take a photograph too and make send reporters his way. Asking him why he went to visit Dunilsky in jail and what he might say regarding his cousin. But, when asked about the Archangel the response was not what she expected. Who is behind the Great Erie? Who is giving Urquhart orders? Who is the person that is controlling him? What is the link to him and Emma Goldman? Did he arrange to kill him? Alice is bent on finding the Archangel and her agenda has yet to be created. Was Czolgosz the beginning?
Her aunt is distressed at their arrangement and wants St. Clair elsewhere. But, she manages to foil her wishes for a while as she goes head on with someone named Berger and Mr. Peters about a picture that was created in this man’s hop. Artwork was provided by the client but no name, cash and no reference to where the man lives or any personal information as Berger the business manager relates.
Things spiral even further out of control as Preston and the Doris’s brother are put on the spot as Alice demands information that she feels will solve the hidden truths behind Preston’s company and the truth behind what they are really doing and why. When all of the information comes into place the author throws a curve ball you won’t expect when the Archangel’s identity is revealed and the end result will take down some powerful people. Who was hiding behind the Great Erie Boat Company? Who was behind Dunilsky’s death in the tombs? Mr. Compton is Doris Ann’s brother what lesson does he learn about coming up against Alice? Confrontations that will shock readers and Alice’s final rant and rave until the problem is solved. Who is the Archangel? What is the truth behind Preston’s motives for wanting to help her? What is behind what his company was really doing? You won’t believe what she does at the end when the killer learns that Alice is tough, tenacious and hardnosed as Alice and the Assassin take to the limits. Who wins? Who loses? Find out when you read this interesting novel.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine