One of my many works-in-progress is a Victorian mystery series, I love San Francisco, and I love Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series. I’ve already read all 17 of Thompson’s books this year, so while I anxiously await the next chapter of her saga, I though M. Louisa Locke’s Victorian San Francisco Mystery series would fill the void. While the stories are entertaining enough (I was able to make my way through all three books), its not the best mystery series I have read.
The books are described as follows:
Maids of Misfortune introduces Annie Fuller, a young widow who runs the O’Farrell Street boarding house and supplements her income by giving financial and domestic advice as Madam Sibyl. When Mr. Voss, one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, dies in mysterious circumstances, Annie goes undercover as domestic servant to find out the truth about Voss’s death and his missing assets. Against his better judgment, Nate Dawson, the Voss family lawyer finds himself drawn into helping Mrs. Fuller in her investigations, alternatively fascinated and frustrated by Annie’s independent nature.
Uneasy Spirits finds Annie Fuller and Nate Dawson, assisted by the boarding house maid, Kathleen, delving into the world of 19th century Spiritualism in order to expose a fraudulent trance medium. In the recently published Bloody Lessons, Annie Fuller has been called in by her beau, Nate Dawson to find out who has been sending poison pen letters about the teachers of San Francisco. The case becomes personal when they discover that Nate’s sister, Laura, may be one of the teachers under attack.
While there is a romance between Annie and Nate, the books are certainly more in the mystery genre. The stories are interesting enough to keep you reading, but I’m not sure for how long. There is another book in the series, Deadly Proof, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up. Honestly, the character of Nate just isn’t compelling or interesting enough for me to care about what happens with his and Annie’s relationship. I think Annie could do better.
My biggest problem with the series, though, is just how little the character of “Madam Sibyl” has to do with it. Mystics and fortune tellers were a huge industry and issue in the Victorian world, and they are still fascinating today, so the fact that Annie doubles as a mystic was one of the reasons I picked up the series. But Madam Sibyl falls completely flat. Honestly, that aspect of the character of Annie could have been completely left out and it wouldn’t have made a difference in the trajectory of the stories. In fact, one of the metaplots is for Annie to do away with the Madam Sibyl facade, so why bother with it in the first place?
I would rate these books a 3 out of 5. They are OK, but weak in key areas.
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