First Sentence: The nightmare began early on the morning of Sunday, December 4.
Sarah Woolson is only the third female attorney to be licensed in California and is struggling to get her private practice off the ground. A brutal murder occurs on Rincon Hill, near her home, followed shortly by a second murder. Neither victim had been robbed. Both had attended the same party. Two young, very recently immigrated Chinese men are arrested, Sarah's former client, powerful tong leader Li Ying, hires her to prove their innocence.
At the same time, Sarah has been hired by beautiful young woman. She had a written contract with a morality-touting publisher to be his private mistress. When she became pregnant, within that time, he cut off all support. Now, she wasn't Sarah to sue him.
Ms. Tallman skillfully takes the reader back to 1881, pre-earthquake San Francisco. She creates a solid sense of the places, styles and attitudes of the time. She particularly illustrates the bigotry against the Chinese.
Living in the Bay Area, it is particularly fun for me to read about locations I know and her descriptions of food are delectable. I did wonder, however, whether those who don't know San Francisco might feel a bit lost and wished a map or photos had been included. The dialogue, which reflects the syntax of the period, adds to the sense of time and provides an indication of each characters social status.
For those who've not read prior books, enough background is given so that one understands the characters and their relationships. Sarah is a wonderful character. She is independent and has a good logical mind, as well as a sense of humor. I particularly like the relationships with men that Tallman has created as they are natural and realistic.
The story is well thought out and well plotted. Because it is built layer upon layer, it did seem to slow down a bit in the middle, but that doesn't last long. While some may feel the resolution seems convenient, to me it seemed logical and appropriate.
While I don't feel this is the strongest book in the series, I did enjoy it and am looking forward to the next book.