When Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini write the Carpenter and Quincannon mysteries, the books turn into atmospheric stories of 1895 San Francisco. The latest, The Body Snatchers Affair, mixes danger in Chinatown with Sherlock Holmes and the underlying sexual tension between the two detectives. And, then, of course, there are missing bodies.
The first missing body belongs to a case in Chinatown. John Quincannon is actually looking for a lawyer who is addicted to opium, a man who works for one tong. He finds the man, only to be shot at, and end up with a dead lawyer, and the possibility of a tong war in Chinatown because the body of a dead elder is missing. When Sabina Carpenter, Quincannon's business partner, accepts a job from a wealthy widow, she's also looking for a missing body. Something odd is going on in San Francisco. And, it seems even stranger when a man who claims to be "The World's Greatest Detective, Sherlock Holmes" provides Sabina with suggestions that she look into the past of the man she is seeing. Why does this fake Holmes always seem to know more than the two detectives?
Carpenter and Quincannon are two capable private detectives caught up in unusual cases in San Francisco. Their pairing, along with the escapades of "Sherlock Holmes", provide the humor in a series that exposes the crime and gritty side of San Francisco in the 1890s. There was a little too much about Chinatown for me, but that's due to my own lack of interest in the subject. I have to admit I read these books because of the sparring between the two partners, and their on-going lack of relationship. I like the two characters.
The Body Snatchers Affair is not the first in the series. However, it's easy to pick up these mysteries without having read previous ones. Muller and Pronzini skillfully bring this period to life, with all of its grittiness, while providing humor in the background.
Marcia Muller's website is www.marciamuller.com
The Body Snatchers Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini. Tor. 2014. ISBN 9780765331762 (hardcover), 219p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.