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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Russian Hill Murders: A Sarah Woolson Mystery (Sarah Woolson Mysteries)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 2, 2005
I am so enjoying this series. The story moved right along, kept me interested and wanting to know what was coming. The final courtroom scene was a bit melodramatic, but didn't put me off the book. Tallman has created a smart, feisty character supported by her family but fighting society's norms, and the supporting characters are equally interesting. I definitely want to know what happens to them and eagerly await the next book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2005
As I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series,I had high hopes for The Russian Hill Murders,and Ms Tallman met and surpassed my expectations. The characters are well developed (and delightful, I might add),and the plot is just intricate enough to keep you guessing. I had a lot of fun trying to come up with "whodunnit" before Sarah Woolson.The writing is articulate, and there is a sense of excitement at all times. Highly recommended
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2005
Shirley Tallman delivers a splendidly intriguing and suspenseful follow-up to "The Nob Hill Murders" in this second Sarah Woolson mystery novel, "The Russian Hill Murders." Definitely, this is a series to look out for!

When first a member of the new Women's and Children's Hospital, and then someone else who vehemently opposed the hospital's existence suddenly die, Sarah Woolson, San Francisco's first female lawyer, is intrigued and perplexed. The authorities dismiss both deaths as accidental, but Sarah has a feeling that there is something more to both deaths. However, she's too busy trying to help a client collect damages for a wrongful death suit, as well as having to put up with the bad tempered crochets of her hostile employer. And then the hospital's accountant dies under highly suspicious circumstances. This time there is evidence that the man was poisoned. And because he had had a very acrimonious relationship with the hospital's hot tempered Chinese cook, the police immediately jump to the conclusion that the cook is guilty of poisoning the accountant. And when they find the poison in the kitchen, they immediately arrest the man for murder. Sarah cannot believe that the cook has been arrested on such a slender piece of evidence, and fears that racial prejudice may at the root of the cook's arrest. So that when Li Ying, San Francisco's most powerful Tong lord whom Sarah met in "The Nob Hill Murders" requests that she defend the cook during the criminal trial, Sarah readily agrees. And even though Sarah realises that she has to contend not only with the racial prejudice of the jury, but also with the sexist opinions of the court and the jury, she's determined to do the best for her client -- and in this instance it means that she will have to discover the identity of the real murderer herself before it's too late!

I enjoyed Shirley Tallman's "The Russian Hill Murders" so much that I had to finish it in one sitting. The plot unfolded at a brisk and continuous pace; and the manner in which the author bridged both of Sarah's cases, cleverly done. Also nicely done was how the author maintained the suspense and how she portrayed San Francisco, both its people and the town, of the late 1800s. But what really made this novel a stellar one is the author's vivid and credible characterisation of her heroine, Sarah Woolson, and how she fitted the mystery around Sarah's stalwart character: a woman who believes strongly in the equality of sexes as well as the races, and who is not afraid to fight for what she believes in or to right a wrong. And it is this strong sense of justice and fair play that made "The Russian Hill Murders" a wonderful and absorbing read, and made me root for Sarah right to the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2006
Super mystery! Well written and full of suspense. I couldn't put it down until the very end. I thought I'd figured out whodunit, but turns out I was wrong. Kept me guessing until the last chapter.

Sarah Woolson is an out-spoken, fun, funny, well-developed and intelligent heroine. I love the way she takes charge of a situation and sticks with it until the end. I also loved Pierce Godfrey, and hope we'll see him again soon. What a hunk!!!

Keep 'em coming! Can't wait until the next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 22, 2008
This is the second volume of the Sarah Woolson series set in 1880's San Francisco, following just a few months after the events of MURDER ON NOB HILL. Sarah, one of the first women to be admited to the California Bar, had managed to gain a position in one of most prestigious law firms in San Francisco. Although she had managed to represent her clients well and managed to uncover a murderer Sarah was not a valued, or even welcome member of the law firm.

As the RUSSIAN HILL MURDERS begins she has managed to further enrage her employers by first accepting the widow of a sweatshop worker as a client and then agreeing to defend a Chinese cook who has been charged with murder. Poor Sarah cannot even seem to get a rest in her private life as first one and then another member of her social set die under mysterious circumstances, one right in front of her.

Sarah, along with fellow attorney Robert Campbell follow the trail of clues through the varied levels of late Victorian San Francisco society. Despite the cosmopolitan setting this series is very much in the cozy style, the true attraction here is on the characters and subplots rather than the actual mystery. The mysteries here are moderately challenging, with perhaps a twist or two to keep the reader guessing but what really holds the reader's interest here are the subplots....especially those concerning Sarah's love life (or lack thereof) now that a second (and perhaps even a third) potential suitor has been introduced into the series.

This series will appeal to those cozy mystery fans who also enjoy a historical setting. In many ways Sarah is reminiscient of Elizabeth Peter's AMELIA PEABODY. The two both share outspoken opinions at odds with Victorian ideas on women's rights and social classes. THE RUSSIAN HILL MURDERS could be enjoyed by itself but beginning with MURDER ON NOB HILL would probably be preferred.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2006
I do enjoy this series. I love the time period, the descriptions of San Francisco, and Sarah Woolsen as the female attorney protagonist. In the first book, I found I could believe almost the whole story line -- which is fine that I might have to stretch a bit to make it work for me. The second book made me feel the same way until I got to some of the later courtroom scenes. I'm surprised my eyes aren't stuck in the back of my head because of how many times I rolled my eyes toward the back of my head toward the end of the book. The later scenes were not plausible for a variety of reasons and were even more frustrating when the scene as written was not necessary to the plot. I'll give one example here. At one point Ms. Woolsen is going "to go outside the box" and begin questioning a witness in the gallery/audience. The only fear Ms. Woolsen has is that of being disciplined by the local bar association. This is ridiculous because the judge is cantankerous, only has had comtempt for Ms. Woolsen throughout the proceedings, in past scenes has actually threatened Ms. Woolsen with sanctions, and actually would have the immediate power to sanction an attorney for inappropriate behavior in his courtroom. The judge says nothing while Ms. Woolsen acts completely inappropriately -- sanctionably -- in his courtroom. If the judge were true to his character and that of a judge-in-real-life he would have sanctioned Ms. Woolsen immediately, not letting the circus in his courtroom go on and on. Of course, Ms. Tallman would have had to come up with a different way to expose the murderer to the reader. That would have been preferrable to the scene as written. I would actually rate this book at a 3 1/2 but that isn't an option so I'll give Ms. Tallman the benefit of the doubt.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Russian Hill Murders by Shirley Tallman is the second installment in the Sarah Woolson series. In this entry Sarah ends up defending a Chinese cook for two murders and representing a young widow whose husband was killed in a fire at a sweatshop. It should surprise no reader of mysteries that of course the cases are connected. Sarah works again with Robert, another young lawyer, and adds a teen-aged carriage driver named Eddie to her circle. This series is written in 1st person which creates problems for the reader. I think the main deficiency in this series is the lack of sympathy for the main character. Sarah is beautiful, wealthy, well-heeled, romantically pursued, educated, and spoiled by her family. Some characters can be all of those things and still beloved by the reader, but Sarah just comes across as headstrong and uncaring of other people's feelings. The criminal is fairly obvious through the book, even if the motive isn't, but it seems a bit foolish that Sarah is the only one to see the clues.
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on September 14, 2014
This is the second Sarah Woolson mystery of the series. Overall, the mystery was well told and the story was engaging. Sarah Woolson is a great feminist sleuth and her family is drawn well. It was nice to see her father, a judge, more involved with helping her solve the case in this book.

I have a few issues with the book. The character of Robert basically did not evolve at all in the second book. Given his involvement with helping Sarah solve the case in the first book, it would have been much more realistic for him to have more faith in her abilities and at some point stop being the naysayer, but he continued in exactly the same way as he had in Book 1. There was a great potential for him to evolve but it didn't happen here.

Also, although the book was well-written overall, there were stylistic issues (such as being told the reactions of the characters when they were obvious) and the last courtroom scene was a little too melodramatic to be totally believable. There was also a bit more melodrama in this book than in Book 1, a kind of "all the cards stacked against Sarah" type of melodrama that simply wouldn't have been realistic, even in the Victorian era.

In addition, while the author does a nice job of depicting old San Francisco, it's almost as if she weren't as meticulous in trying to tell the story in a way that would have depicted the era she was writing about (late 19th century) as she was in the first book. In Book 1, I felt as if the book could have almost been written during the 19th century, right alongside Anna Katherine Green and others because the tone and expressions and word choices used were authentic. I've read a lot of 19th century novels and nonfiction, so I'm in tune with how the writing was and what expressions people would have used. It just didn't come off as authentically in this book, so that I felt at times that it was a 19th century story being told with 21st century expressions. At one point, the author used an expression in a context that I doubted would have been in existence in the 19th century and, sure enough, when I researched it, I discovered that the expression in that context did not come about until 30 years after this book was set.

The characters and stories will keep me reading this series, though.
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on November 30, 2013
Feisty San Francisco attorney Sarah Woolson is in a pitched battle with the `old boy' law office where she works. Her boss, horrified that a female could aspire to the law profession constantly finds new busywork, coffee cup cleaning and typing projects for Sarah.

This 27 year-old defies conventional life -- her mom wants her to settle down, Sarah wants action. Sarah gets her wish when Caroline Godfrey, wealthy socialite and supporter of the new Women and Children's Hospital, drops dead at a charity dinner.

Sarah is troubled by this death; blood tests indicate that Caroline had taken too much of her nitroglycerine for her heart ailment. Sarah's unease grows more serious when other people, related to the new hospital, die.

There's another plot afoot; a pregnant widow comes to see Sarah, hoping for help. Her husband, along with 4 others, died in a sweatshop fire. She asks Sarah to sue to help her take care of her (soon to be) 3 children. The problem is that building ownership is not easy to discover; the laws (and dangerous thugs) seem to protect the sweatshop owners.

Of course, the prestigious law office where Sarah works decries the very idea of helping the poverty-stricken mother and children. Sarah, along with her pair of wily confederates (Scottish attorney Robert Campbell and young hansom cabdriver Eddie) pursue both problems.

If the law firm was upset about the widow's case, they move into high boil over Sarah daring to take a criminal court case. (In Great Britain it could take 15 years for a young male solicitor to get to be first chair in a criminal trial.)

The hospital's Chinese chef is blamed, but Chinatown's most powerful tong lord insists that Sarah personally defend the very-difficult chef. Readers will need to keep a score card to stay abreast of the possible murderers - as Sarah, Eddie and Robert try to solve the case.

The action moves at a fast clip and bodies drop like flies. Robert, with his strong Scottish brogue, is a hoot. He constantly reminds Sarah of what she cannot do -- which prods her to prove him wrong. Sarah, Eddie and Robert are delightful.

Sarah Woolson Mysteries
1. Murder on Nob Hill (2004)
2. The Russian Hill Murders (2005)
3. The Cliff House Strangler (2007)
4. Scandal on Rincon Hill (2010)
5. Death on Telegraph Hill (2012)
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VINE VOICEon May 25, 2011
THE RUSSIAN HILL MURDERS is a great follow-up to the first book in this entertaining series. I obviously found it engaging and enjoyable, since I read it in one day; I immediately put a hold on the next two books at my library, as I am anxious to see what will happen next in Sarah's life ... and I'll admit, I'm also curious to see which romantic relationship develops into something.

Like Murder on Nob Hill (Book 1), the mystery here is well-done and the historical setting of the story feels very authentic. While the first book really kept me guessing, I did have more of a feeling as to what had happened with this story and didn't find it as interesting as the first mystery. However, it held my attention and everything came together very nicely in the end.

Sarah Woolson, our heroine, continues to be a real spitfire and very opinionated, but while I found her to be a little excessive - and therefore sometimes annoying - in the first book, I thought here she appeared more mature, while still having the right amount of "fire in the belly" and spunk. The secondary cast of characters continues to be interesting, with my favorite being ...

Robert Campbell! He gets his own paragraph because I absolutely love him, lol. Robert is a fellow associate attorney at the firm, as well as a big, loud Scot who often verbally spars with Sarah. By this book, it's clear that he does respect her as an attorney and knows she's intelligent, for which as I was glad, because had he continued to have the same slightly supercilious attitude as in the first book, it would have gotten to be annoying instead of amusing.

While Robert and Sarah still often act as opposing forces, they work very well together in this book and seem to have developed a rhythm to their relationship. Sarah is completely clueless that there might be something more to their friendship, and as it's told in first person, for all I know Robert is just as unaware. With the introduction of Pierce Godfrey, however, who is a rival potential suitor, Robert begins to show something of a jealous side and a definite interest in what might develop between Pierce and Sarah. We all know who I'm rooting for, so I'll leave it at that ... I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will be given some indication over the course of the next two books that my guy will (eventually) win out.

BOTTOM LINE:
Another entertaining and enjoyable read in this lovely mystery series. While the writing is very simple and straightforward, the characters are engaging, the mystery is interesting, and the story is threaded with humor, so all-in-all I would definitely recommend it. I think it can be read as a stand-alone, but would personally advise that the books be read in order, as I think you'll get more out of the experience that way.

THE SARAH WOOLSON MYSTERY SERIES:
Book 1 - Murder on Nob Hill (4 stars)
Book 2 - THE RUSSIAN HILL MURDERS (4 stars)
Book 3 - The Cliff House Strangler
Book 4 - Scandal on Rincon Hill
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