This is the 4th in the series (which definitely should be read in order.) This title is my least favorite in the series so far. The middle was too long and drawn-out but the ending, when it finally came, brought things together too fast. Too many loose ends all drawn up neatly in one pretty bow without adequate attention earlier in the story. Still worth reading, especially for the addition of Wish as a regular character and Wish's mother who is a hoot. Fremont's father makes a trip West and Michael and Fremont's relation continues to evolve.
Like all good historical mysteries, Dianne Day's books about a feisty young woman from Boston named Fremont Jones who winds up solving crimes in and around San Francisco in the early 1900s are a delicate balance of odd and exotic period details and characters with motivations we can sympathize with today. The notion that Fremont's lover-partner, a Russian named Michael Kossoff, might be involved in a plot to murder the mad monk Rasputin is made more believable by his endearing habit of bringing home fresh pastries for breakfast. That Fremont's new friend Frances McFadden seems to have summoned up at a seance the spirit of that infamous 19th-century San Francisco character who crowned himself Emperor Norton I of the United States and Defender of Mexico is balanced by the bruises Fremont notices on the battered wife's arms. And descriptions of a determined San Francisco rebuilding itself after the 1905 earthquake remind us of more recent Bay Area disasters. Day writes with wit and energy, and her Fremont Jones is a totally plausible modern woman born a few decades before her time but making the most of that accident of history.
From Publishers Weekly
"The beguiling characters populating the fourth Fremont Jones mystery, following The Bohemian Murders (1997), are such fun that one can forgive the less than captivating plot. A strong-willed and beautiful young woman intent on following her own star, Fremont sustains a stormy relationship with a handsome, sophisticated ex-spy of Russian extraction, Michael Kossoff, aka Michael Archer.
In 1908, in a post-earthquake San Francisco that is rapidly rebuilding with energy and style, Jones and Kossoff have formed the J&K Agency, with Fremont as a detective-in-training and ex-cop Wish Stephenson as an operative. Through a young married friend, Fremont involves herself and the agency in the murder case of two well-known spiritualists.
Day's appealing portrait of a spirited, irrepressible heroine battling the strictures of a more straitlaced time works well whether Fremont is donning men's duds to infiltrate several exclusive men's clubs or fighting the casual acceptance of wife abuse.
The interplay between the two principals and Day's superior handling of period detail and supporting characters contribute to this series' strong appeal."