About This Blog

I am always in search of a good book, which is getting harder to find these days. My taste is ecclectic though it leans toward books that take me places I've never been.

Through the books I've read during the past few months, I've been to China, Spain, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Chile, Japan, The Philippines, and many other exotic places. I've lived the lives of a boy soldier in Africa, a Shanghai detective, a foreign intern in Spain, a famous geisha, a precocious boy in Ireland, and a college student in a circus train.

My reviews will not reveal the plot but it will give you a general idea of the storyline and the flavor of the narrative.

I make it a point to only post reviews on the good books I've read, whether from a small or big publisher, those that merit a four or a five stars. In this way, I can point my readers toward a new and exciting place on a journey they may otherwise not have taken.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: The Cliff House Strangler by Shirley Tallman

So I am back, reviewing one of the Sarah Woolson cozies, this time titled The Cliff House Strangler by Oregon author Shirley Tallman. In this third installment of the series, 1880s female attorney Sarah Woolson leaves the prestigious, male-chauvinistic law firm of Shepard and Shepard to open her own financially struggling law office above a bake shop. The novel opens with Sarah Woolson and former colleague Robert Campbell participating in a Madame Karpova séance at the Cliff House, attended by a few members of the San Francisco elite. After being treated to an absorbing oft-hallucinogenic séance, we find that one of the attendees is brutally strangled in his chair.

The event plunges our dear Sarah into the investigation with bull-like determination and cat-like curiosity. Of course, no one believes her. After all, she is only a woman, and a female attorney at that, an occupation frowned upon in the old male-dominated San Francisco days. This causes Sarah to work triply hard on proving her case. When two more séance attendees are found murdered and Madame Karpova is arrested for the murder, the case takes on the mantle of conspiracy and city hall corruption. But of course, only Sarah recognizes this.

In this episode, Sarah’s headlong and determined character is consistent with the past two novels of the series, traits that endear us to her character. The narrative is a true cozy, giving us a flavor of 1880s San Francisco with its taxi carriages, horse-drawn buses, and narrow unpaved streets. The city neighborhoods are all there (Russian Hill, Nob Hill, the Barbary Coast, Market Street, Sutter Street, etc.), but seen from an older prism, one of the many engaging aspects of the novel.
Is it a light novel? Of course, it is. That’s what cozies are, but it is also thick with suspense and plot, not to mention a unique, completely absorbing setting. The narrative prose is smooth, consistent, and vintage Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Five deserving stars.

First published on August 2, 2013 at blogcritics.  http://blogcritics.org/book-review-the-cliff-house-strangler-a-sarah-woolson-mystery-by-shirley-tallman/

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