When her father marries a woman who she dislikes Caroline Jones brings forward her plans to live an unconventional life. Determined not to marry because of the way it diminishes the role of the woman, she moves from Boston to San Francisco, changes her name to a gender-neutral Fremont and sets up a business as a typist. And it is that business, plus a fascination with Sherlock Holmes, that introduces Fremont to the role of amateur deduction as she becomes involved in investigating several mysteries that her clients seem to be caught up in. One customer leaves a series of gothic horror stories which he claims to be true for her to type and then disappears, while another is killed shortly after Fremont types a curious document for him.
I enjoyed the depiction of San Francisco in the early 1900’s as a place for adventurers and dreamers and the overall inclusion of period details was well done too. The picture painted of a town at a time of change and flux included things like the adoption of new technologies such as the telephone and electricity and it was very engaging.
For me the rest of the book was not as successful. The blurb on my copy suggested it would be suitable for fans of Elizabeth Peters whose character, Amelia Peabody, does share some traits with Fremont Jones. However I found the writing here more stiff and lacking the underlying sense of humour that Peters conveys with her similarly strident and forward-thinking protagonist. There was also too much focus on a fairly implausible romance between Fremont and her first client for my tastes. The use of the first person narrative and Day’s penchant for exclamation points at the end of innocuous sentences contributed to the impression the entire tale was being told by a breathless teenager seeing intrigue where none exists. In all then the book was a bit more of a melodramatic suspense than I enjoy reading but there are plenty of readers who would disagree, including those who awarded the novel a Macavity award for best first novel in 1996.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 2.5/5
Author website http://www.avadianneday.com/
Publisher Bantam [this edition 1996, original edition 1995]
Length 244 pages
Format mass market paperback
Book Series #1 in the Fremont Jones series
Source I bought it