In 1867 San Francisco, tensions run high between the Chinese who have immigrated in search of a better life and the San Francisco population of Irish, Polish, Italian, and other nationalities. The “native” San Franciscans accuse the Chinese of stealing their jobs, and riots and fights are breaking out all over the city.
After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, Celia Davies, a British born woman from a well-to-do family, left her home to follow her new husband to America. After arriving in San Francisco and being disillusioned by the gold rush, her husband Patrick disappears on a merchant ship and is presumed dead. Although there is no love lost between Celia and her brother-in-law Tom, when he is accused of the murder of Li-Sha, the mother of his child, she feels compelled to help clear his name. Li-Sha was a friend of Celia and her cousin Barbara, and she was Chinese. The police are happy to let Tom hang for the crime, but Detective Nicholas Greaves begrudgingly agrees with Celia that there is more to the story.
Celia’s work at a woman’s clinic that caters to the poor of all ethnicities and her innate curiosity have a tendency to put her in precarious situations. Her concern for safety must also extend to her cousin Barbara who is both half-Chinese and lame from a club foot, and her Scottish housekeeper Addie. When the threats encroach dangerously close to home, Celia and Nicholas must work together to solve the case. The safety and security of Celia and her sister and the entire Chinese population are at stake if they aren’t successful.
I’m doing the happy dance! I love a new series and this one comes highly recommended. When three authors I have read and enjoyed – Anna Lee Huber, Victoria Thompson, and Alyssa Maxwell – have author comments on the cover, I know it is a book I should look at.
The concept of a strong, dominant higher class female and an honest truth-seeking police detective in a corrupt environment is not a new one. However, there are a number of factors that make this book unique. First, the setting of San Francisco following the Civil War provides a wealth of cultural and political intrigue. Prior to the great earthquake of 1906 but following the height of the Gold Rush, the city is in a state of flux and numerous groups and individuals are vying for power and control. The distance from both the eastern part of the US and the proximity to the west brings in a diverse population and unique social and economic conflicts.
Second, Celia is English, served as a nurse in the Crimea, and now cares for the under-privileged and ignored of the city. As a nurse and a married woman, albeit with a missing husband, she is allowed access to areas that might be prohibited to women. Because her uncle married a Chinese woman during the Gold Rush and her cousin is half-Chinese, Celia has first-hand experience with prejudice in her role as Barbara’s guardian.
Finally Nick is a police officer with his own demons. Allusions to a dead sister and a lost-love, coupled with the memories of the horrors he saw while serving during the Civil War, provide his character with some depth and mystery. I am curious to know more about him!
Who might like this book:
Anyone who likes period mysteries with a little romance should check this book out. The time period, setting, and well-defined characters make this a series that shows a great deal of promise and I look forward to following Celia and Nick on their next adventure. Book 2 – No Pity for the Dead comes out in August 2016.