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)

Also read my book review of The Secret life of Anna Blanc.

About Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK was released in November, 2017. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Historical Mystery and the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

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.
Visit Jennifer at or on Twitter - Pinterest or Facebook

About The Woman in the Camphor Trunk

In early-1900s Los Angeles-- an era of courting, ragtime, suffragettes, and widespread corruption-- a socialite turned police matron tracks down the murderer of a white woman in Chinatown, while trying to prevent the outbreak of a bloody tong war.

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.

Central Station, LA 1910
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! 

Audible Perofrmance
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. 

Once again, I can't wait for what comes next for this spunky female sleuth and this rising historical novelist!

Buy The Woman in the Camphor Trunk on Amazon or Audible.
Buy The Secret Life of Anna Blanc on Amazon or Audible.


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