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Monday, November 5, 2012

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: San Francisco, 1879

First Sentence: Annie Fuller gasped, shocked at even allowing such an unladylike expression to enter her mind.

This novel is the first of a sereies based on the occupations of women in the 19th century.

Annie Fuller is a widow living in San Francisco in 1879.  Her husband committed suicide several years ago leaving Annie penniless.  Fortunately, she inherited a house in San Francisco from an aunt.  To make ends meet, Annie runs a respectable boarding house.  For additional income, Annie poses as a clairvoyant.  She reads palms, and gives personal and financial advice.  Although she does not believe in spiritualism, her palmistry and personal advice are accepted because she is a good judge of character.  Her financial advice is generally very good because he father had educated her so well in finance and stock trading.  A very unusual education for a woman in the late 1800's.

Then one of her clients, Matthew Voss,  is found dead.  The police believe that he committed suicide due to his poor financial situation.  Annie knows better.  Following her advice, Matthew had rescued his finances.  He was about to cash in some stock and realize a large profit.

Frustrated with the direction of the police investigation, Annie decides to see what she can uncover.  She does this by taking a position as a maid in the Voss household.  The Vosses are unaware that she is investigating Matthew's death. Working as a maid, Annie gains insight into the private relationships of the Voss family and their household staff.  As she gets to know the family better she learns that several family members had both the motive and the opportunity to murder Mr. Voss.

Annie is aided in her investigations by Nate Dawson.  He is a young lawyer working in the law offices of the Voss family's attorney.  He is trying to discover the whereabouts of the missing Voss  fortune.  Working together they begin to piece together the clues which may lead them to the killer.

Will Annie and Nate discover the identity of the murderer?  Will Annie's deception put her in danger?  And where is Matthew's missing fortune?

This was a pleasant book to read.  I enjoy reading stories with independent female characters.  In this novel Annie proves that she can stick up for herself.  In the late 1800's, a common view was that women were the weaker sex.  Men needed to defend and protect them from the outside world.  Annie shows that she doesn't need Nate to protect her, and that she can work with him as an equal.

Overall, a fun historical mystery.

Maids of Misfortune

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