Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini

The mystery world's only living couple to be honored as Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America join forces for the fourth novel written together. Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini have a fascinating collaboration in The Bughouse Affair. Pronini has written novels featuring John Quincannon, a former United States Secret Service Agent. Together, Muller and Pronzini wrote a story collection, Carpenter and Quincannon: Professional Detective Services. Now, fifteen years later, they bring their characters back for two diverging cases that find them meeting up with an interfering man, an Englishman claiming to be Sherlock Holmes.

In 1894 San Francisco, Qunicannon has been in business with Sabrina Carpenter, a former Pinkerton detective, for three years. Although they're business partners, he would like to be more, but the attractive widow has refused his advances. She does see through his tough exterior, though, to see the sensitive man. But, a recent news story by Ambrose Bierce finds Quincannon blustery. Bierce proclaims it a lie when a San Francisco visitor claims to be the late Sherlock Holmes who reportedly died three years earlier at Reichenbach Falls. Quincannon doesn't believe that Holmes was the greatest detective, and he's even angrier when the claimant foils Quincannon's attempt to catch a burglar. The man's pontifications only convince Quincannon that the man is nuts.

Quincannon is attempting to catch a burglar who is stealing from customers of the Great Western insurance company. Sabrina Carpenter has her own case, the search for a female pickpocket who has been targeting male customers at a local amusement park. The two cases seem to have nothing in common, but as the two detectives deal with escapes and murder, they find their searches leading in similar directions. Their cases may be frustrating, but not as frustrating as trying to deal with the "scrawny gibbering imitation" of Sherlock Holmes.

It's evident why Muller and Pronzini are masters. They deftly handle the historic San Francisco, the mystery, two fascinating private investigators, and the interesting addition of Sherlock Holmes. The Bughouse Affair is a serious story with comic moments. Anyone interested in historical mysteries or Sherlock Holmes pastiches will appreciate the latest effort of this wonderful team. Here's hoping we won't have to wait years for the next Carpenter and Quincannon mystery.

Marcia Muller's website is

The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. Forge. 2013. ISBN 9780765331748 (hardcover), 276p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Jane R said...

Good grief, what prolific writers these two are! And I don't think I've ever read any of their books. Lately I've found myself reading quite a few historical mysteries so this collaboration is particularly appealing. Thanks for the great review (and for expanding my vocabulary - I had to look up the word 'pastiches'!).

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Jane, on both counts. I've read some of the early books by both, and an earlier Quincannon. That Quincannon book was the reason I was eager to read this one. It was fun!

Karen C said...

I have read about this book and did have it on my TRB list; it just sounds like a great read. Thanks for the review.

Kimberlee said...

I just got done reading this one and I loved it!! Great storyline, great characters and the Sherlock Holmes, whoever he is, was fabulous. I can't wait to read the next installment of this series!