Thursday, December 26, 2013

Uneasy Spirits (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery) by M. Louisa Locke


(I bought this book.)

In this sequel to Maids of Misfortune, it is the fall of 1879 and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, has a problem. Despite her growing financial success as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl, Annie doesn't believe in the astrology and palmistry her clients think are the basis for her advice.

Kathleen Hennessey, Annie Fuller's young Irish maid, has a plan. When her mistress is asked to expose a fraudulent trance medium, Arabella Frampton, Kathleen is determined to assist in the investigation, just like the Pinkerton detectives she has read about in the dime novels.

Nate Dawson, up-and-coming San Francisco lawyer, has a dilemma. He wants to marry the unconventional Annie Fuller, but he doesn't feel he can reveal his true feelings until he has a way to make enough money to support her.

In Uneasy Spirits, this cozy historical mystery of romantic suspense, Annie delves into the intriguing world of 19th century spiritualism, encountering true believers and naïve dupes, clever frauds and unexplained supernatural phenomena. She will soon find there are as many secrets as there are spirits swirling around the Frampton séance table. Some of those secrets will threaten the foundation of her career as Madam Sibyl and the future of her relationship with Nate Dawson, and, in time, they will threaten her very life itself.

Uneasy Spirits is the second book in M. Louisa Locke's Victorian historical mystery series, the first is Maids of Misfortune, and there are currently two short stories based on the characters from the novels, Dandy Detects, and The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage.

Fabulous book!  Uneasy Spirits is another beautifully written, evocative, full-immersion trip to San Francisco in 1879.  The independent and intrepid Annie Fuller is asked by one of her boarders, Miss Pinehurst, to investigate a popular medium who has seemingly manipulated Miss Pinehurst's grieving sister by channeling the spirit of her dead child.  San Francisco has many such mediums, as the Spiritualist movement is very popular, and attending a seance is as fashionable as it is thrilling.  Annie, while open-minded, is suspicious of the beautiful Arabella Frampton and tries to discover how she performs her tricks.  Although Annie is quite sure Arabella is a fake, she can't figure out the performances of the strange and enigmatic Evie May, a young girl with a mysterious and compelling ability to channel a variety of spirits and change her very appearance right in front of witnesses.

Annie is accompanied to the seances by her enthusiastic, devoted maid Kathleen, and aided in her investigation by her beau Nate Dawson, a young lawyer who recognizes that since he can't stop Annie's unconventional behavior, he may as well go along for the ride to keep up with her.
Pretty soon Annie is the target of threatening notes and physically harmed as she gets closer to the truth.
But is Evie May a victim or a suspect?  This was easily the most compelling part of the story for me, as we see that Evie May has, from a modern perspective, multiple personalities and a background likely filled with abuse.  But to the educated people of 1879 San Francisco, including a famous Spiritualist and trance medium with a similarly abusive background, Evie May is guarded by protective spirits.  Reading this in 2013 it's easy to be dismissive, and assume Evie May has multiple personality disorder, but her knowledge of otherwise secret events would lend credence to the belief that she is, indeed, some form of psychic.  It's also a discreet but vivid reminder that the mental illness of one era is the revered powers of another era.  The fact that Annie keeps an open mind regarding Evie May keeps this subtext alive and added a thrilling layer to the overall mystery.

And by the way, each chapter begins with a pertinent headline or classified ad from the San Francisco Chronicle dated from the exact day the story is taking place.  A really nice touch.

I can't recommend these books enough!

Check out the author's website HERE.

 Bloody Lessons: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery  The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage: A Victorian San Francisco Story  Dandy Detects: A Victorian San Francisco Story

1 comment:

  1. you've sold me! I need a really good book to read tonight and have always been fascinated by all things religious/spiritualist and "mental illness of one era is the revered powers of another era" ~ could not have put it any better! btw, as I was reading your review this one sounds similar to a book I read a few months back ~ Delia's Shadow. I can't recall who its by but I'll look it up and email it to you. It's also set in San Francisco but @ 10 years after the Great Fire. It was pretty good. Thanks for the Locke recommendation! Looking forward to sitting by the fire this cold wet day and tucking into a new author!