Published: March 17, 2014
Number of pages: 373
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, murder, romance
Rating: older adults
Verdict: 4 out of 5 owl hoots
San Francisco, 1876: Blanche an exotic dancer at the House of Mirrors, her lover Arthur, and his friend, Ernest live in the streets of Chinatown. During a time when an epidemic strikes, and the city is engulfed in heat comes a surprise guest. An eccentric woman name Jenny Bonnet to join their circle changing everything but leaving one of them dead.
There are two reasons why I picked up this book: 1) I don’t know what it is with red covers, but it was the color that caught my eye and drew me into picking up the book and reading the first chapter, and 2) I’ve read Emma’s books before and since I love reading a good mystery, I decided to give this one a try.
First of all, I want to talk about the characters. The story begins with Blanche living a perfect life earning money and satisfying her lover Arthur, but by the time she meets Jenny her whole life spirals out of control. And although she feels anguish it’s a good thing that Jenny came in or else she wouldn’t have learned Arthur’s true nature and the lies she’s been living with almost all her life.
Out of all the characters I like Jenny Bonnet best and it’s not because of all the good she brings when entering Blanche’s life, but her eccentric personality and daring style of wearing only men’s clothes and riding a two-wheeler. Jenny is the only sensible person in the story. She’s clever, charming, and has something that Blanche doesn’t have: courage. Unlike her new friend, Jenny is not afraid to stand up against anyone including the one person that Blanche is scared of. And even during a crisis she always seems calm and focus rather than acting out without thinking, which Blanche has a habit of doing. But she also let’s her courage rub off on Blanche so that she turns into a strong, independent woman who learns to carry the load herself.
Now let’s talk about the mystery. It’s clear to Blanche and the reader on who’s responsible, although sometimes Blanche can be a fool when she let’s her doubts and fears cloud her judgment and making unnecessary suspicions. She’s not a great detective when figuring out the crime herself but I admire her wits as it takes a lot of courage to point the finger on the murderer, while still trying to survive on her own.
A great whodunit mystery based on true events and real-life characters, this is an intriguing and provocative novel set in 1876 San Francisco. Be aware that there are sexually explicit scenes and mature language, and I’m glad that Emma included a glossary of French terms that came in handy for English translation.