In The Bughouse Affair, this first of a new series of lighthearted historical mysteries set in 1890s San Francisco, former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon, undertake what initially appear to be two unrelated investigations. Sabina's case involves the hunt for a ruthless lady "dip" who uses fiendish means to relieve her victims of their valuables at Chutes Amusement Park and other crowded places.
Quincannon, meanwhile, is after a slippery housebreaker who targets the homes of wealthy residents, following a trail that leads him from the infamous Barbary Coast to an oyster pirate's lair to a Tenderloin parlor house known as the Fiddle Dee Dee. The two cases eventually connect in surprising fashion, but not before two murders and assorted other felonies complicate matters even further. And not before the two sleuths are hindered, assisted, and exasperated by the bughouse Sherlock Holmes.
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Terrific, engaging detective story!
Yes, I would. It's a terrific book with excellent characters and is also a very good detective story. It proposes an interesting "impossible" crime -- the kind of crime where it seems nobody could have done it -- and while I was busy looking to the left, the book sneaks its solution from the right, only to surprise me when I turned my head around. While not the most ingenious locked-room problem I've ever read -- for that, we'd need to turn to John Dickson Carr -- it's excellent as is.
Sabina Carpenter was a terrific character. I really liked how she keeps coming across women who have been abandoned by society -- widows, the elderly, mothers, etc. left to fend for themselves. A free spirit by nature, Sabina sympathizes with these women and tries everything in her power to help them, giving them the kindness and support that they desperately need.
I preferred Nick Sullivan's narration, because the Sherlock Holmes impression is uncanny. It sounds like he's channeling Basil Rathbone from those old radio shows, and it's a blast to listen to. Meredith Mitchell does a terrific job with the female characters, but when she reads the "bughouse Sherlock"'s lines, the English accent was unconvincing.
Well, I loved it -- does that count as extreme? It combines an interesting time period and a great detective duo with a tricky plot. The clues are all there and the reader is on equal footing with the detective. There’s a good locked room mystery. The historical colour is terrific. Sherlock Holmes sort-of shows up as a crazy Limey who calls himself Sherlock Holmes, but it couldn't possibly be Holmes because he fell over the Reichenbach Falls, right? (It's a very fun little parody.)
It’s a delicious book and a promising start to the series’ incarnation as novels -- Bill Pronzini previously wrote some short stories with these characters, but this is the first novel and the first collaboration with his wife Marcia Muller. It was a very enjoyable, entertaining book. Here’s hoping they continue!
A single narrator would have been better
Because each chapter was from the perspective of either the male or female protagonist, the male or female narrator read that chapter. This caused the odd situation that "conversations" sometimes had the male narrator doing both the male and the female parts, sometimes the female narrator did both the male and female parts, and sometimes both narrators conversed. It was particularly confusing that each narrator had a different voice for Holmes.
Yes, I have enjoyed books by both authors in the past and this book was actually a good beginning for a series.
Better continuity of voices for the characters; either by having only one narrator or having each narrator assigned the same characters throughout the book.