Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: San Francisco, 1879
First Sentence: Why hasn't that good-for-nothing boy come up to get me ready for bed yet?
This novel is the second in Locke's Victorian San Francisco mystery series.
In this novel, Locke has crafted a unique mystery story. While the murder takes place rather early in the story, the main character is not aware of it until very late in the plot. When she does learn about the crime, she quickly determines who the culprit is.
Locke's main character is Annie Fuller. For her time, Annie is a unique woman. She owns and operates a boarding house. To supplement her income, she dispenses personal and business advice in the guise of Madam Sibyl. A widow, Annie is very independent. Her marriage was not a happy one and she is loath to relinquish her freedom.
This novel has three interwoven plot lines. In the main plot line, Annie has been asked to investigate a troupe of spiritualists. The sister of one of Annie's boarders has been attending seances staged by these spiritualists. Annie's boarder believes that the spiritualists are swindlers who have taken financial advantage of the sister.
Annie was asked to investigate because of her experiences as Madam Sibyl. The boarder hopes that Annie might quickly expose the spiritualists as frauds.
As Annie investigates, she gathers seemingly unrelated clues. These clues lead Annie to solving the murder once she learns of the crime.
A second plot line revolves around the character Evie May. Exactly who is she? Evie's behavior has Annie questioning her own beliefs about spiritualism. Does Evie May actually have the ability to channel spirits from beyond the grave?
A third plot line concerns the development of Annie's relationship with Nate Dawson. Nate is a young lawyer who helped Annie solve the mystery in the first book of the series. Since then, Annie and Nate have become very close. Annie is fearful of marriage because it would mean giving up her cherished independence. Nate is very protective of Annie. He sometimes oversteps his bounds when he tries to control Annie's behavior. Even when it is for her own safety.
I enjoyed reading this novel. Because of the unique way the story is told, the first half of the novel was somewhat slow. However, the last half went quicker as the action picked up. I figured out what was up with Evie May pretty quickly. But I was surprised when the murderer was revealed.
For me, this novel was a fine second installment of the series. I am looking forward to reading more about Annie and Nate.
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