Book Review: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe
'm so excited to welcome Jennifer Kincheloe back for a second interview on her second installment to the Anna Blanc mystery series: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk (Amazon). (Audible)
Read my interview with Jennifer Kincheloe on The Women in the Camphor Trunk and read the special Behind the Scenes Interview with Spoilers Alerts!
Also read my book review of The Secret life of Anna Blanc.
About Jennifer Kincheloe
Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat. There she conducts research on the jails.
About The Woman in the Camphor Trunk
Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. If news about the murder gets out, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna work to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret, reluctantly helped by the good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent local leader.
Meanwhile, the kidnapping of two slave girls fuels existing tensions, leaving Chinatown poised on the verge of a bloody tong war. Joe orders Anna to stay away, but Anna is determined to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.
The Book Review
Just like The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, I loved The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. Jennifer's ability to capture that charming spoiled rich girl character is inspiring. Her cheeky humor had me laughing out loud and and her twisting mysteries had me guessing to the very end!
Once again Anna Blanc charms us with her witty banter and fresh sayings that Jennifer has termed as "Anna-isms." I liked that in this installment, Anna is paying for her outlandish actions from the first book. She's trying to make it on her own without her daddy's help, and she's not managing to pull it off easily either. That really brought a realistic and dynamic aspect to her character's journey.
We also got to experience the fun back-and-forths between Anna Blanc and Joe Singer again because they have broken up after a disagreement regarding marriage. Once again, Joe leaves us wondering, cheering, and awing all the way through. We also got to see more of several fun characters from the first novel, and we got to meet some really intriguing new characters, including missionaries, China-men mobsters and Sing-Song Girls.
Story & Mystery
The story was brilliant and funny. Jennifer knows exactly when we need a break from the mystery and a little bit of the love story or a little bit of historical background. Very well paced, and there was a great twist at the end I never saw coming.
Historical Detail and Setting
I was very impressed with the amount of historical research and detail work Jennifer put into this book. Her descriptions of turn of the century Chinatown in LA were incredibly well done as was her ability to capture a little known slice of history regarding the tensions between Chinatown and the rest of the city at this time.
Then of course we cannot forget the fantastic details Jennifer puts into all the fashion from shoes to jewelry. There's nothing better than Victorian designer-wear!
There's more historical detail than I can possibly allude to, from the inner workings of newspaper boys to religious tolerance and intolerance. Part of what makes these books so enjoyable is the rich historical backgrounds that we don't usually get to read about in other historical mysteries. This is the first book and first series I've ever heard of taking place in Gilded Age LA let alone Gilded Age Chinatown!
This is the second Anna Blanc book that I have listened to rather than read, and I have to say the voice actress, Moira Quirk, who does the audio version of Anna Blanc is fantastic. She gets that character down and she isn't difficult to accept as other characters either. When listening to her, you can picture Anna, Joe, and everyone else without pause.