San Francisco in the 1890s was a study in contrast, great wealth on one hand, great poverty and crime on the other. And, sometimes, in Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini's Carpenter and Quincannon mysteries, those worlds collide. The Spook Lights Affair sheds some light on both worlds, and throws in a little Sherlock Holmes for added atmosphere.
Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, have two cases going on at the same time. Sabina is shadowing Virginia St. Ives, the daughter of a prominent family, who has formed an inappropriate liaison. Quincannon is on the trail of a thief who stole $35,000 in a recent Wells, Fargo Express robbery. But, both cases go wrong. And, "the crackbrain who fancied himself to be Sherlock Holmes" shows up to give advice to both detectives. Quincannon doesn't accept that advice willingly, although it has helped them in the past.
While Sabina and her charge were at a party at the mayor's, Virginia climbed a parapet, and seemed to throw herself off of it, right in front of the detective. Quincannon has a terrible time of it as he chases a gambler, and a killer. And, that Sherlock Holmes character could be right, that the two cases are linked.
Once again, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini team up to bring us two of my favorite characters in historical mysteries. They set the stories against the colorful backdrop of San Francisco in the 1890s. Then, they add the supporting cast that is perfect for this time period; muckraking newspapermen, wealthy debutantes, and, of course, the man who claims to be Sherlock Holmes. Then, there's Sabina Carpenter, a widow and former "Pink Rose" for Pinkerton, along with her partner, John Quincannon, a former member of the U.S. Secret Service.
Journey back to a time when detectives had to rely on their intelligence, their wit, and, sometimes, their fists in order to make a living, and find justice. The Spook Lights Affair is a welcome addition to this world of historical mysteries.
Marcia Muller's website is www.marciamuller.com.
The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini. 2013. Forge. ISBN 9780765331755 (hardcover), 256p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.