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"Locating the real James McParland amid the invective, acclaim and invention (including his own) is no easy task, and Beau Riffenburgh, author of 'Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition,' has made good use of the recently released Pinkerton archives to produce the fullest and fairest biography to date.... McParland was the prototype of a character that has become an adored part of America's cultural landscape, the hard-boiled gumshoe, the lone sleuth in search of justice. He was the first private eye in the public eye, and yet he remains strangely private."
—Ben McIntyre, the New York Times
"Revisiting archives and reintroducing historical context, Riffenburgh unfolds a measured, thought-provoking tale of mine-centered mayhem.... Pinkerton's Great Detective delivers an engrossing tale with rewarding insights into a country coping with massive economic and political changes. That process- - and may of its results - still echoes meaningfully today."
"Thanks to Riffenburgh, it is not hard to divine the truth. McParland was neither a demon nor a saint. This is no copout. The man belonged to an age ravaged by violence and conflict, and his job as he understood it was to capture the guilty.... He was not always in the right, but he broke with the right less often and less deliberately than the criminals he hunted. That is as much heroism as Riffenburgh, a great detective in his own right, has managed to find in this alien, tumultuous time." —The Christina Science Monitor
“Riffenburgh navigates this moral quagmire deftly, contextualizing McParland and his far more violent time, while simultaneously deconstructing the image of the “Great Detective.”
—The Daily Beast
“The biography combines an illuminating look at a fascinating life with a nuanced analysis of how Pinkerton’s agency functioned in the context of the labor movement in 19th-century America.”
—The Columbus Dispatch