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THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK
by Jennifer Kincheloe
Seventh Street Books, November 2017
304 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1633883639


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the second of her Anna Blanc mysteries, Jennifer Kincheloe sets her heroine Anna Blanc onto two gruesome murders in Los Angeles' Chinatown. It is 1908 and Anna is the Assistant Matron of the LAPD, taking care of vagrant children and female improprieties. She has gained notoriety in the newspapers because she is the runaway daughter of an LA magnate, having just solved a massive case involving prostitutes. Beautiful and destitute, Anna lives on Cracker Jacks and kippers, still dresses in her finery and is both a crack detective and a nave poor little rich girl.

First she steals a severed head of a Chinese male in a bucket from a Long Beach Detective, and then she finds the body of her best childhood friend in a Camphor Trunk in Chinatown. Anna is a lady and no lady would go into Chinatown, the site of most of the sin in LA - too dangerous and sure to ruin a reputation. But since Anna has lost any reputation she might have had, she does not worry. Anyway, she is fearless since she refused to marry her boyfriend, Detective Joe Singer, for fear of losing her independence, and he has begun courting other girls. If she can't have Joe on her terms, she does not care whether she lives or dies. A fearless woman is something to reckon with!

Anna proceeds without caution, following the clues, confronting heads of the two tongs that rule Chinatown, escaping with her life numerous times. Joe has been assigned to the Chinatown beat. He does his best to keep her out of trouble and out of Chinatown, with no luck. She whirls through LA and into the forest seeking the villain or villains, Joe following along behind. He saves her bacon several times. She must overcome her modesty, and possibly her virginity, to save Joe's life.

As an overprotected debutante, Anna hardly knows how to boil water but she has a razor-sharp mind that does not miss a detail, storing everything in a memory to which she has instant access. Yet Anna pines for the touch of Joe's hand and the feel of his lips, not sure what this all means. The resulting humor and Kincheloe's light touch makes THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK a delightful romp, with Anna wearing designer clothes in Chinatown or almost bare-assed in the woods. THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK would make a great chick flick.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, August 2017

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