Book Review: The Body in Griffith Park by Jennifer Kincheloe @jenkincheloe @SeventhStBooks

The Body in Griffith Park
An Anna Blanc Mystery Book 3
Jennifer Kincheloe
Seventh Street  Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-540-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Los Angeles, 1908. Anna Blanc is a former so-so socialite, a flailing police matron, and a killer detective.

Ex-heiress, Anna Blanc, is precariously employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, reforming delinquent children and minding lady jailbirds. What she really wants is to hunt criminals and be alone with Detective Joe Singer–both no-nos that could get her fired. On a lover’s tryst in Griffith Park, Anna and Joe discover the body of a young gambler. Anna can’t resist. She’s on the case.

With a murder to solve and her police matron duties piling up, a young girl shows up at Central Station claiming to have been raped by a man from Mars. The men at the station scoff, but Anna is willing to investigate. Meanwhile, Anna begins getting strange floral arrangements from an unknown admirer. Following the petals leads her to another crime–one close to home. Suddenly pitted against Joe, Anna must examine her loyalties and solve the crimes, even if it means losing the man she loves.

With sentences like this, it’s impossible not to love this book:

Anna arranged her face matrimonially—that is, she
tried to look grown-up, haggard, and a bit sour.

Doesn’t that bring a visual right to mind?

Anna Blanc is a young woman determined to find a place for herself in a time and society that doesn’t encourage women’s independence and she’s chosen to do so in the LAPD, decidedly a bastion of male privilege and dominance. Anna’s boss and only female colleague, Matron Clemens, is a hard taskmaster (taskmistress?) but Anna has proven her detecting skills several times now.

Meanwhile, Anna is carrying on a clandestine romance with Detective Joe Singer and, if they’re caught, Anna could be fired. Knowing that, the lovers go to extraordinary lengths to keep their liaison a secret and they may or may not be entirely successful; in fact, we know they’re not but the powers that be are still in the dark. Regardless, their efforts are inventive and frequently amusing.

On one of their trysts, while Anna and Joe are ostensibly looking for a truant, they discover a corpse. Joe immediately thinks it’s a suicide but Anna is not so sure and her detective talents kick in and, once she points out several observations to Joe, he can’t help but agree. Before all is said and done, a variety of cases will have Anna going in all directions, albeit surreptitiously, and we’re also treated to more of her family drama while Joe continues to support her as best he can in his 1908 manly way.

And who keeps sending Anna bouquets of beautiful flowers?

This is the second book I’ve read in this series—not sure how or why I’ve missed the first one—and I’m an ardent admirer of Ms. Kincheloe‘s obvious research into the early part of the 20th century. More than that, she brings Anna and her surroundings to life, making me want more. I guess I’ll have to go pick up The Secret Life of Anna Blanc while I’m waiting for book #4 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

Book Review: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe

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Title: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk
Series: An Anna Blanc Mystery #2
Author: Jennifer Kincheloe
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Publication Date: December 6, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Woman in the Camphor Trunk
An Anna Blanc Mystery #2
Jennifer Kincheloe
Narrated by Moira Quirk
Jennifer R. Kincheloe, Ltd.,
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook
Also available in trade paperback from Seventh Street Books

From the author—

Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. Her lover has fled. If news gets out that a white woman was murdered in Chinatown, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna plan to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret. So does good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent Chinese leader who has mixed feelings about helping the LAPD and about Anna.

Meanwhile, the Hop Sing tong has kidnapped two slave girls from the Bing Kong tong, fuelling existing tensions. They are poised on the verge of a bloody tong war that would put all Chinatown residents in danger.

Joe orders Anna out of Chinatown to keep her safe, but to atone for her own family’s sins, Anna must stay to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.

There’s something about turn-of-the-century fiction that really appeals to me and I can’t truly put my finger on just what it is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that things are on the very edge of tremendous change and that life is going to become quite different as well as a good deal less innocent.

Anna is the epitome of these coming changes. Raised in a privileged society, she yearns for something that will engage her intelligence and her interest in people who aren’t nearly so well off and she’s willing to fight for her ambitions (although “ambition” isn’t entirely the right word). Having found that she’s good at detective work—she’s curious and very smart, not to mention bold enough to go after what she considers justice—she goes where no woman has gone before, so to speak, throwing societal mores to the wind. Anna isn’t allowed to be an actual detective but she gets a lot done as an assistant police matron.

This time, Anna is involved in investigating the murder of a white woman in Chinatown which, of course, exposes her to a world very different from anything she’s known before with tongs, brothels, opium dens and the like. At first, she’s assigned to work with Joe Singer but, due to some unfortunate circumstances, she soon has to develop her own leads, much to the dismay of every man she knows.

With a lot of humor from Anna, we get a good taste of how things were at that time and how a feisty young woman could get around some of the restrictions placed on women (and the painful consequences of defying society). The narrator, Moira Quirk, does a wonderful job of bringing Anna to life and, in fact, she makes me think of an older Flavia de Luce transported to America in an earlier day. The combination of Ms. Kincheloe’s well-researched and lively story and characters along with Ms. Quirk’s talent make for a wonderful tale, the first I’ll be adding to my list of favorite books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

About the Author

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She’s currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK, came out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads // Pinterest

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About the Narrator

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She’s won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible’s prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

Website // Facebook

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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