An intriguing and engaging mystery—readers will hope for more adventures starring the redoubtable hero.

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In this historical fiction sequela San Francisco journalist shows her resourcefulness and audacity after a tennis coach’s death.

Edward Zimmer, the publisher of cub reporter Jane Benjamin’s newspaper, and his companion, Sandy Abbott, are traveling to London to watch the 1939 Wimbledon games. San Francisco’s favorite daughter, Tommie O’Rourke, will be defending the city’s honor. Defend it she does, but at her moment of triumph, her coach, Edith Carlson, suddenly collapses and dies right there in the stands. Through luck and pluck, Jane has joined the traveling entourage and even wins the provisional confidence of Tommie and her brother, Frank. Meanwhile, Jane is wangling for a promotion to gossip columnist. While the group is sailing home on the Queen Mary, suspicions arise that Edith actually was murdered, and Jane is on the case. Enter the sad figure of Helen Carlson, the coach’s niece, a very troubled—if not mentally ill—woman who chooses suicide and is buried at sea with her aunt. Jane tries to solve all of these mysteries, reconciles (somewhat) with her mother, and gets ready for the next stage of her tumultuous life. Blanton-Stroud is a wonderful writer, and Jane is a compelling creation. Check out some of the lines in the enjoyable novel. After surprising a celebrity, “the photographers ran off like hyenas with bloody chunks of meat in their mouths.” Jane, desperate to hear crucial information, lent her “ears what remained of” her strength. The London weather is as “cold and drizzly as the eye of a sneeze.” There are many vivid flashbacks to Jane’s hardscrabble growing up in a 1930s Hooverville in California. Readers will understand that Jane’s childhood made her what she is now and is going to be in the future (see Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill me…”). And her troubled troubadour father had nonetheless a nobility to him (see Woody Guthrie).  

An intriguing and engaging mystery—readers will hope for more adventures starring the redoubtable hero.

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64742-407-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022


Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022


Satisfyingly twisty, highly educational, and lots of fun.

An old-fashioned detective novel set in 1940s San Francisco, with an injection of contemporary concerns.

In her fiction debut, Chua, best known for Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011) and several books about immigration and politics, pays tribute to the mystery novels she loved growing up, incorporating extensive research on topics ranging from the architecture of San Francisco to the Chinese Exclusion Act to the biographies of Wendell Willkie and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. When presidential hopeful Walter Wilkinson is found shot dead with his pants down in his room at the Claremont Hotel, the prime suspects are three young women: Isabella Stafford and her cousins, Nicole and Cassie Bainbridge. Unfortunately, the Mexican housekeeper who saw one of them coming out of Wilkinson’s room can’t tell one blond white girl from another. On the case is hard-boiled homicide detective Al Sullivan, originally Alejo Gutiérrez, a member of the Berkeley police force who is half Mexican, half Nebraskan, and part Jewish on his Mexican side, who's been passing as white for many years. Among the many complications he faces in his investigation is the fact that Isabella’s 7-year-old sister, Iris, died at the Claremont 10 years earlier under circumstances that remain unclear. The novel opens with the deposition of the girls’ grandmother, Genevieve Bainbridge, who controls the fortune to which they are heir. She’s been told that if she doesn’t give up the killer, all three will take the rap—and while she won’t do that, she has plenty to reveal, and her testimony is parceled out in sections throughout the book. The many threads of the plot as well as the author's concerns about race, class, and other matters come together in the cleverly imagined character and voice of her detective.

Satisfyingly twisty, highly educational, and lots of fun.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9781250903600

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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