The Spook Lights Affair
Review: Sabina Carpenter takes on the case of finding a young woman, who supposed committed suicide by jumping from a ledge though her body was not found, while her partner John Quincannon goes after a 10% bounty for finding $35,000 stolen from a Wells Fargo shipment, in The Spook Lights Affair, the second mystery in this series set in late 1800s San Francisco by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini.
The daughter of prominent members of San Francisco society, 18-year-old Virginia St. Ives has been seen in the company of a store clerk, someone clearly beneath her station, or so says her father Joseph. As he and his wife must travel out of town, Joseph St. Ives hires Sabina to watch over Virginia and see to it that she stays out of trouble. Sabina hates the assignment, but it is good money and seems to be a reasonably simply assignment. That is until Virginia rushes out of a ball held by the mayor and, followed by Sabina, jumps off a parapet presumably to her death. Too dark to investigate fully, she and others do their best to locate the body. Sabina later retrieves the young woman's purse, which contains a suicide note. But the next day when the body still cannot be found, Sabina is at a loss to explain to the St. Ives what might have happened to their daughter. Meanwhile, Quincannon takes on the task of locating a large sum of cash that was stolen from Wells Fargo, his previous employer. Convinced he has the wherewithal to get the task done, he stands to collect a 10% fee for his service.
Sabina's case is the more intriguing of the two, but — as is typical of situations like this — it is linked to Quincannon's and thus it is fairly easy to deduce the who and the why, though the how isn't quite as clear. Indeed, both Sabina and Quincannon come to the same conclusion regarding the who and why at about the same time, with the how being credibly explained in the end. It's rather entertaining to follow the two around as they pursue their respective leads. Sherlock Holmes, or someone purporting to be him, makes an appearance here (as he did in the previous book), though it is brief and adds nothing to, nor takes anything from, the story. Which begs the question, why is his inclusion in the book even necessary. It's an artificial plot construct that tends to detract from the storyline rather than contribute to it. Even so, The Spook Lights Affair is an enjoyable mystery that takes advantage of and makes clever use of several unique elements from the time and place that the action is set.
Acknowledgment: Forge Books provided an ARC of The Spook Lights Affair for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Bughouse Affair
Forge Books (Hardcover), January 2013
ISBN-13: 9780765331748; ISBN-10: 0765331748
Location(s) referenced in The Spook Lights Affair: San Francisco, California
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The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini — A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: December 2013
List Price: $24.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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