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The operatives of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency were renowned for their skills of subterfuge, infiltration, and investigation, none more so than James McParland. So thrilling were McParland’s cases that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included the cunning detective in a story along with Sherlock Holmes.
Both action packed and meticulously researched, Pinkerton’s Great Detective brings readers along on McParland’s most challenging cases: from young McParland’s infiltration of the murderous Molly Maguires gang in the case that launched his career to his hunt for the notorious Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch to his controversial investigation of the Western Federation of Mines in the assassination of Idaho’s former governor.
Filled with outlaws and criminals, detectives and lawmen, Pinkerton’s Great Detective shines a light upon the celebrated secretive agency and its premier sleuth.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review by Travis Starnes
Pinkerton’s Great Detective follows the life and exploits of James McPharland, one of the most famous investigators of the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency. Involved in major episodes in US history, McPharland was a key player in taking down the Molly Maguires and chasing down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Riffenburgh is a very detailed writer and has done his homework on McPharland. I will admit that although I was familiar with the Pinkertons and many of the situations described here, until I read this book I was not aware of McPharland. Although I have little to judge it against, Riffenburgh seems to have completely cataloged McPharland’s life and there seems little left out. It is quite amazing how many major events in the late 19th century that the detective was involved in.
The writing is well done and easy to read. Those expecting a true crime novel or form of mystery might find it slow as a biography it reads very well. As with most biographies it starts with his parents and early life and hits all the events and relationships in his life, as well as many of the minor events. The book is more narrative then most biographies I have read, although it is still more a biography then a narrative history. Riffenburgh’s writing helps the book flow very well and I found it to be an enjoyable read.
If you are interested in a turn of the century detectives, the Pinkerton’s or biographies of notable Americans then you will enjoy this book, or of course if you are familiar or at all interested in James McPharland himself. If you aren’t don’t worry, I was also unfamiliar with the man and that did little to take away my enjoyment of this biography.