It’s a wonder the ERA still hasn’t passed, considering all the proto-feminist sleuths turning up in American historical fiction.
Sarah Woolson, a 27-year-old lawyer in 1880 San Francisco, bustles her bustle into the august chambers of Shepherd, Shepherd, McNaughton and Hall, attorneys-at-law, snatching a wealthy young widow, Annjennet Hannaford, as her personal client and forcing the outraged senior partner, Joseph Shepherd, to take her on as a junior associate. Mrs. Hannaford badly needs her help, since her husband, banker Cornelius Hannaford, was fatally stabbed in the genitals, and his widow is receiving subpar advice from Shepherd, et al. Sarah uses the brand-new Married Women’s Property Act to get her client access to some badly needed cash while her husband’s estate is still in probate. When Mrs. Hannaford and her actor lover, Peter Fowler, are arrested for Hannaford’s murder, however, Sarah must brush up on criminal law, since, unlike every male involved, she naturally doesn’t believe for a minute that her client is guilty. Instead, she’s interested in the fortune Hannaford made together with three other partners double-dealing at the Comstock Lode. When those partners turn up murdered, one by one, in the same gruesome fashion, it begins to look as if Sarah may be right.
Lively details of a lively time and place spice up a typically feisty heroine’s struggles against sexism.