Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Maids of Misfortune - A Victorian San Francisco Mystery

Annie Fuller is a business woman in an era where that is more of a liability than an asset. Raised an only child, tutored, by her adoring father, in the matter of stocks, bonds and other annuities, Annie married a weak and controlling man who robbed her of her inheritance, and in keeping with his character, committed suicide. 

After inheriting her aunt's home in San Francisco the young widow established a boarding house. It didn't, however, provide her enough income. Her training as a stock broker was laughable in the very male world of 1879, so, when a wealthy roomer suggested that she become 'Madame Sibyl' a clairvoyant adapt in business transactions, she donned a black wig, designated a small parlor in her boarding house, and placed an advertisement of her talents.

When her favorite client, Matthew Voss, is found dead of an apparent suicide, Annie is not content with that verdict, especially when all his money and stocks are missing. Her first visitor, after the death, is a young attorney named Nate Dawson who immediately assumes that Annie and Matthew's relationship was more of a physical one than business, since he named her in his will. Part of the fun in this light-hearted mystery is the constant collisions of will between Annie and Dawson. Annie is forward thinking - Nate a conservative, easily shocked male of his century. 

So, was it suicide, or just plain murder? And, where was the Voss money? Was the misunderstood son, the beautiful wife, the ever-suffering sister, or the uppity ladies maid, involved in nefarious activities?  And just where did Voss's partner, a man about town, fit into all this? Annie, with help from her boarders and personal staff,  devise a plan to find out who's doing what in the Voss household; much to the chagrin of young Dawson. 

In Maids of Misfortune, M. Louisa Locke has created a lively, cozy tale of Victorian mayhem with enough dangerous situations to keep you involved. Glimpses of San Francisco, in the late 1800's, are skillfully embedded in the action. A thoroughly pleasant read, followed by a sequel titled Uneasy Spirits.