Book Review: “The Dangerous Ladies Affair” by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

Published in 2016, this book is a collaboration between two authors, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini, both Mystery Writers of America Grand Masters.  The story is set in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century (1890’s).  Bicycles were the lastest rage.

Sabina Carpenter, a widow, joins forces with John Quincannon, a bachelor, to form the firm of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services.  On one fine morning, Sabina, an avid member of the local bicycle club, meets her friend, Amity Wellman during the ride.  As they talk, Amity confides in her friend that she needs her help as she’s received three messages threatening her life.  Sabina takes on the case, knowing her friend’s high profile involvement in the women’s right to vote initiative.  Meanwhile, John has obtained a new client of his own.  A banker by the name of Wrixton, who is being blackmailed and forced to pay thousands of dollars for a second time.  Both cases involve dangerous ladies.

I’m not used to reading literature in the style this book was written so it was an adjustment.  In addition, the authors used a number of words that are no longer commonplace, but probably were at the time of this story.  For instance, the police force was referred to as “constabulary” and a policeman was called a “blue coat.”  I was particular curious about a “kanaka deckhand” and found no definition for the term.

The cases weren’t particularly unique nor were there a lot of surprises, but they did come to a successful conclusion.  I did note that each chapter for Sabina was labeled with her first name, “Sabina” while John’s was labeled with his last name, “Quincannon.”  Obviously, the authors didn’t feel it necessary that the female should also be listed by her last name as they did for the male.  So much for equality.  At least, her name is first in the company name.

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