I’ve been reading Marcia Muller for decades now, and so was excited to try this first book in a new series, coauthored with her husband, Bill Pronzini, a successful mystery novelist in his own right.
The Bughouse Affair introduces Carpenter and Quincannon, a former Pinkerton detective and secret service agent respectively, who settled in San Francisco as private inquiry agents in turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco. The chapters alternate between the two detectives investigating their separate cases.
Sabina Carpenter is a young widow whose career gives her something to focus on. Her case involves a pickpocket, evidently a woman, operating in an amusement park. Sabina quickly figures out the woman’s method and eventually deduces her identity; now she’s just got to catch her.
John Quincannon likewise knows the identity of the housebreaker he’s been hired to capture, but that turns out to be significantly more difficult than expected, as the thief eludes him not once but twice, getting away with the goods and apparently a locked-room murder. His efforts are also complicated by his new assistant, a man who claims to be Sherlock Holmes and whose somewhat demented tactics drive Quincannon crazy.
Not surprisingly, given my love for Sharon McCone, I liked Sabina and her investigations; she reminded me a bit of Dianne Day’s Fremont Jones, my absolute favorite San Francisco detective who operated in a similar time period. On the other hand, I could’ve lived without the whole Sherlock Holmes subplot (it was supposed to be funny, I guess), and Quincannon’s constant attempts to flirt with Sabina got old fast. Nonetheless, since Dianne Day is no longer writing Fremont Jones, I’ll look forward to another Carpenter and Quincannon mystery instead. The setting alone is worth the read.
My thanks to the publisher, Forge Books, for a review copy of The Bughouse Affair.