Friday, November 24, 2017

G911 Book Review of The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe

Name of Book: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk

Author: Jennifer Kincheloe

ISBN: 978-1-63388-363-5

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Part of a Series: Anna Blanc Mysteries

Type of book: 1908, Chinatown, tong, hop sing girls, Cracker jacks riddles, mystery, humor, hints of Chinese/white women relationships, jealousy, murder, engagement, detective, Los Angeles, Bing Kong tong, Hop Sing tong

Year it was published: 2017


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. Her lover has fled. If news gets out that a white woman was murdered in Chinatown, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna plan to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret. So does good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent Chinese leader who has mixed feelings about helping the LAPD and about Anna.

Meanwhile, the Hop Sing tong has kidnapped two slave girls from the Bing Kong tong, fuelling existing tensions. They are poised on the verge of a bloody tong war that would put all Chinatown residents in danger.

Joe orders Anna out of Chinatown to keep her safe, but to atone for her own family's sins, Anna must stay to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.


Just like in previous book, there are Anna and Joe. Anna is incredibly observant, knowledgeable and really knows how to ask the right questions and get the job done. In some areas she is still naive, but that outbalances with her keen observations and resourcefulness. She still has love/hate relationship with Joe. Joe is probably the saner version of Anna and isn't as naive. Joe is conflicted between his heart and head and like Anna he is resourceful, generous and often worries too much about Anna but is doing his best not to stop Anna. There is also Mr. Jones who is a Chinese herbalist and who adopted English name for his use. He has secrets he is not willing to part with and often resents Anna's intrusion into Chinatown affairs. There are also women missionaries, the opium addicted old woman, and Miss Robbins who does what she can for the Chinese girl slaves.


There is more to appearance


Seriously, the first sentence hooked me " Anna Blanc was the most beautiful woman ever to barrel down Long Beach Strand with the severed head of a Chinese man." (page 7) Just like in the first mystery, the characters remain wonderfully themselves and there is a whole lot of humor in the book as well and sizzling chemistry and moments where Anna misunderstood the references that I'm sure many of us will get. The residents of Chinatown were painted as more than just villains and were given interesting personalities and are even love interests in some cases.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Jennifer Kincheloe is the author of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, which won the Colorado GOld Award for mystery and the Mystery and Mayhem Award for historical mystery and was a finalist for the Macavity Sue Feder Historical Mystery award, Left Coast Crime "Lefty" Award, and Colorado Authors' League Award for genre fiction. Formerly the principal of a health consulting firm and a member of the research faculty for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, Kincheloe currently does research on the jails in Denver, Colorado when not researching history and writing novels.


I can imagine that when writing the book, the author might have had a difficult time because how does one write a mystery and set it in Chinatown yet make the characters seem more human rather than just mere caricatures, especially on so little information? I was a bit apprehensive in reading the book because I wasn't sure how I would feel when reading it, but I needn't have worried, for both the Caucasian and Asian characters are varied and are simply more than bad and good, which I am happy to report, and aside from the fact that I think Cantonese was far more common than Mandarin (Le ho is Cantonese for hello) at the time, I don't have complaints about their portrayal. Anna is still her efficient yet bumbling self who cares more for mystery,  and Joe is still himself who has tug-of-war with his heart and his head. I also am happy to report that women do find Asian men attractive in the book.

This was given to me for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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