I read a lot of grit, murder, mayhem, and mosters, so it is always refreshing to read a book that looks at life through the rose colored glasses of gentility. Very often, this can only be accomplished by reading books published in the nineteen thirties and forties. Even during that period, hard boiled noir seems really tame by today's standards. Ms. Locke's descriptions of various locations in San Francisco eschew Victorian gentility while making the locales come to life.
The Victorian Era was rife with the spiritualist movement. Seances were all the rage, and money was made exploiting the bereaved. Barbara Hewitt, one of Annie's lodgers, broaches the subject of unscrupulous mediums taking advantage of her younger sister's loss with Annie, more or less on the basis of 'it takes one, to know one' given Annie's alter ego, Madam Sybil.
Much that is currently written with a Victorian backdrop, involves a woman acting contrary to that which is expected of her by men and women alike. Quite often this does not spring from active rebellion but from innate intelligence. There is always a man ready to come to the rescue for all the wrong reasons. Such is Mrs. Annie Fuller's dilemma as she finds herself falling for Nathaniel Dawson, Esq. Here we have two people well suited to each other at odds because although they talk to each other, they never really say what's on their mind until it's too late. Clearly a situation of one step forward, two steps back.
As is so often the case with a mystery series, where the mystery intrigues, the backstory is the driving force to read the subsequent tale. With each novel, we learn more about not only Annie and Nate, but the other recurring characters that loom large in the boarding house, both residents and staff. By making these folks both human and interesting, one feels compelled to read on to see what is happening to this circle of friends. I look forward to reading the next novel in this series.