This is Ms. Locke’s delightful sequel to Maids of Misfortune, and the second in the Annie Fuller historical mystery series. Set in the late 1800’s in one of my favorite cities, San Francisco, California, I felt like I was there, walking these streets as they were a hundred years ago.
By day, Annie Fuller makes her living as the proprietor of a respectable and well established boarding house, but at night, she becomes Madame Sybil, fortune teller. Annie may have been brought up studying finance at her father’s knee, but this is the only way any grown man in the 1800’s will accept the financial advice from a twenty-six year old woman, much less pay for the privilege. And, Annie, has finally found someone who isn’t like her dead husband in the attractive young lawyer, Nate Dawson whose awkwardness around Annie, is both touching and charming.
The story opens with the scene in which we witness the murder of an elderly woman, and in a totally separate venue, we’re introduced to a very strange young girl. The two incidents, we later learn, are intricately woven together and the result will culminate in a surprise ending.
Annie gets involved when one of her boarders, Miss Pinehurst, fearing for her sister’s sanity, begs Annie to help her prove that the clairvoyants her sister insists upon paying, are fake. Stepping into the world of Simon and Arabella Frampton, Annie is sure that Miss Pinehurst is right and determines to expose them… until she meets with Evie May, the odd child we saw in the beginning.
Evie May is a chameleon, a child whose different personas are used by the unscrupulous Simon and Arabella Frampton as a way of making lots of money.
But, there’s a more sinister plot underway here between the Framptons and a shadowy figure who is actually directing the whole show from the sidelines.
Nate and Annie become pawns of this person’s nefarious plans, and though we don’t find out who this person is until almost the end, there’s every reason to believe that one or both of these young people may become the next victim.
This is a skillfully crafted mystery with wonderful recurring characters who are the kind of people that live with the reader long after the book is finished. And of course, the bad and really bad characters get what’s coming to them… perfect!
Last, but not least, when I read this book I was reminded of one of my favorite historical mystery authors, Anne Perry. I’ve read almost all of her books, and I can honestly say that Ms. Locke’s work is right up there with Anne Perry’s.
Reviewed by RP Dahlke, Guest Reviwer, October, 2011.