The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Bughouse Affair

Investigators Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon know 1890s San Francisco is not full of law abiding citizens. Sabina must stop a pickpocket who uses hatpins against her victims. John must foil a robber targeting affluent insurance policy owners. With murder showing the cases may be connected, and a person claiming to be Sherlock Holmes getting involved, matters are very complicated…

Muller and Pronzini draw the reader into 1890s San Francisco with a various tactics. Among them are: casually mentioning city history such as the misnamed North Beach area, using people such as a California Market fishmonger and a Barbary Coast underworld boss and having scents and sounds from locations such as Market Street. The 1890s in general is evoked by the idea of the New Woman and various slang terms. As the two investigators find clues and track down leads the reader is invited to guess at the truth. Sabina and John are fun to investigate with. Sabina is practicality balanced by kindness and a tendency to think of places in terms of food. John cares about doing right even as he looks for ways to gain extra money, appreciation for his skills and a closer relationship with Sabina. The duo look to balance their professional and personal relationships while dealing with an exasperatingly intelligent person who may, or may not, be Sherlock Holmes. The Bughouse Affair is a good read for those looking for a mystery set in 1890s, male and female detective duos and/or a mystery with a bit of humor.

Want reads like The Bughouse Affair?

Charles O’Brien’s Death of a Robber Baron also involves a male and female detective duo at work in a large city in the 1890s. In this case, a recently widowed woman and her husband’s attorney must brave varied personalities of New York to find the truth behind a rich, and despised, man’s death…

Oakley Halls’ Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades is another mystery taking place in 1890s San Francisco. Newspaperman Ambrose Bierce and his protege must contend with people from varied parts of San Francisco as they strive to solve a series of ghastly murders…

Books such as H. W. Brand’s The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s provide more information on this time in U.S. history.


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