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The Expressman and the Detective

Allan Pinkerton

Book Overview: 

Allan Pinkerton, a Scotsman by birth, settled in Chicago in its infancy and founded the Pinkertons, the world's first detective agency. Though events associated with the agency after his death have tarnished the name, Pinkerton himself was one of the original human rights advocates.

The Expressman and the Detective is Pinkerton's first attempt at putting his real-life experiences into novel form. Though many later works attributed to Pinkerton are understood to have been ghostwritten, this is the work of the man the London Times calls "a man at once deeply admirable and quite obnoxious."

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Chicago I selected Mr. Green to "shadow" Mrs. Maroney. Giving him the same full instructions I had given the other operatives, I despatched him for Montgomery. He arrived there none too soon.

Mrs. Maroney had grown rather commanding in her manners, and was very arrogant with the servants in the house. She also found great fault with the proprietor, Mr. Floyd, for not having some necessary repairs in her room attended to.

One of the lady boarders, the wife of a senator, treated her with marked coolness; and these various circumstances so worked on her high-strung temperament that she was thrown into an uncontrollable fit of passion, during which she broke the windows in her room.

The landlord insisted on her paying for them, but she indignantly refused to do so. On his pressing the matter, she determined to leave the house and make a trip to the North.

Porter had become quite intimate with the slave-servants in the Exchange, and easily . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Excellent detective story

This is a fantastic account of how the Pinkerton worked. I had no idea the psychology and the amount of people involved in one case. Amazing!

Allan Pinkerton had a public relations problem. The public believed that his operatives were criminals. His solution was to write dime novels showcasing his cases, lauding the professionalism of his detectives. This is the first book. The first 65% of the book suffers for lack of editing and certain


This is a very early detective novel, written by the man Allan Pinkerton himself -- the founder of the world's first detective agency. It is the alleged account of a detective operation before the US Civil War involving the theft of fifty thousand dollars from a delivery ("express") company.

The Pink

Incredibly detailed account of undercover detectives working to solve a case in 1859 (this account was published fifteen years after the fact). The real hero of the fracas was Mrs. Kate Warne, a pioneering female detective. Pinkerton himself remarked at the denoument that 'she had the proud satisfac

Allan Pinkerton tells how his relatively small P.I. firm succeeded in this first big case.

Ten thousand dollars had gone missing, then forty thousand or so. The suspect was too smart for the police so the robbed company asked Pinkerton to step in. Nine detectives worked this case for ten months. The

Pinkerton's writing is interesting but not so much that the book kept me enthralled. It took me some time to read the book because it was too easy to put down and forget for awhile. The story was interesting but told almost as a detective's report so it lost much of the excitement. A good book to re

Interesting, but really puts the procedure in procedural, which made this feel as not as quick a read as I was hoping (it says it's equivalent to 165 pages).

A few things I found interesting:
1. After some Googling, I found that it appears Clarence Seward ("the Company's 'counsellor' in NY") was Wm.

Great detective story written by Allan Pinkerton himself. I enjoyed every page!

Think: Dragnet meets Mission Impossible in 1859. Pinkerton—yes, that Pinkerton—alleges this is the true account of a major criminal investigation conducted by his agency in 1859. Even Otto Penzler in his 2014 introduction allows the cases were “highly sensationalized.” Despite that, we see here an e

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