The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt

Written by Burt Solomon
Review by Thomas j. Howley

On September 3, 1902, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, President Teddy Roosevelt narrowly escapes death when his horse-drawn carriage is struck by an electric streetcar. Teddy’s Secret Service guard is crushed to death, and the president and other members of his entourage receive multiple injuries. Initial circumstances seem to indicate the event is merely a tragic accident. But “TR” and several others think there may be more here than meets the eye.

Fascinatingly, the president enlists his Secretary of State, John Hay, to investigate the circumstances. It seems the president knows that Hay has been a dogged and successful amateur sleuth going back to the days when the now State Department Chief was then President Abe Lincoln’s personal secretary. Hay reluctantly accepts the mission, though he is inwardly enthusiastic to be emulating Sherlock Holmes. The Secret Service provides Hay with the colorful and famous investigative reporter, Nellie Bly, as his assistant. The hunt to solve the mystery begins.

Any novel which features Teddy Roosevelt, America’s most interesting president, even as a supporting character, is almost certainly going to shine. I was enthralled with this grand, historically illuminative book from the first few pages. Delivered in the first person from Hay’s perspective, the protagonist comes across as admirable and vibrant at 63 years old. The pages are chock full of a cornucopia of little-known kernels of Americana. A complicated man, Hay is equally at home conversing and socializing with the nation’s political and cultural elite and in roughhousing in the ring with tough young Irish boxers. The author’s prose is comforting and enticing – quite unique. Because of his combative style, TR is described as “a new kind of president for a new century.” With a surprise ending I never saw coming, this is a superlative work by Burt Solomon.