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Murder on Nob Hill Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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This promising if melodramatic debut is set in 1880 San Francisco and is narrated by the spirited Sarah Woolson. Educated by her attorney father, Sarah marches into the law firm of one of his associates and demands a job. She gets it, too, and finds herself working on the case of a young widow accused of murdering her older and abusive husband. Contending with the scorn of her male colleagues, Sarah fights for her place in the firm and is soon involved in a heady stew that includes Chinese gangs and child slavery; a club in which gentlemen indulge their most forbidden habits; and other murders that, like the first, involve sexual mutilation. The language tends to the purple, and the local color is laid on thickly; however, the serenely self-assured Sarah, who has a possible love interest in the Scottish colleague she enrages regularly, keeps the reader on her side and turning pages till the end. Stay tuned. GraceAnne DeCandido
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Top customer reviews
Tallman's writing is very simple and her storytelling straightforward, not that either of these things are bad. One criticism I do have is that sometimes it seemed like she needed a better editor, as you have the same word that would appear twice in one sentence or in two consecutive sentences. May seem like a picky objection, but for me it was noticeable and bothersome.
The mystery itself was very well-done and definitely keeps the reader engaged. You start to develop a theory, which gains shape as additional things are revealed. It is a mystery, though - not blatantly obvious - and has some great twists and turns. Another great aspect of this book is that the historical setting feels very authentic. I look forward to reading the other books in the series!
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
The plot has some interesting twists and turns and may hold a surprise or two along the way, but it is never in serious doubt that Sarah's client will not go free or that Sarah will not keep her job. This series, despite it's cosmopolitan setting is definitely in the cozy vein, where the mystery is secondary to the characters involved. In MURDER ON NOB HILL we are introduced not only to Sarah but to her family and several interesting subplots as well. Also a particularly annoying colleague is set up as a potential romantic interest for Sarah.
Perhaps just as interesting as the various plots and subplots we also have the always lovely San Francisco, here shown in her earlier years when street cars were new and daring rather than quaint and charming, Chinatown was mysterious and dangerous rather than a popular tourist attraction.
Fans of the long running AMELIA PEABODY series will probably also enjoy the ongoing adventures of Sarah as she struggles against the conventions of the Victorian era.
The author, a romance writer new to historical fiction, has ensured that the reader learn about notable San Francisco 1880s events. Much of this information, however, is not smoothly integrated into the story nor integral to the plot development. What is key is her reference to the discrimination against the Chinese brought into the state to lay tracks for the Central Pacific Railroad, the power of California's "big four" (Misters Stanford, Huntington, Crocker and Hopkins), the description of Chinatown tongs and opium dens, the wide spread city graft, and the courageous rescues by Margaret Culbertson of Chinese girls sold into the Chinatown brothels. A small point: The season references are sometimes jarring. The late summer fog is right, but by this time the California poppies are pretty much faded and rain this heavy would be early and rare.
The Historical Note gives credit to Clara Shortridge Flotz, admitted to the California bar in September of 1878, who drafted what became known as "The Woman Lawyer's Bill" which resulted in allowing women to become working attorneys. Also mentioned is Laura De Force Gordon who became the first woman to argue a murder case in San Francisco in 1879. The authors of "City of Angels" (LA 1903), reviewed on this site, also use Shortridge as a role model for their equally feisty lawyer heroine.
Most recent customer reviews
San Francisco, this is a fast moving introduction of a resourceful, clever & tenacious woman lawyer.Read more
MURDER ON NOB HILL is anything but slow-moving and boring.Read more