When I bought this, I had originally thought it was a non-fiction book about the lives of domestic maids living in Victorian San Francisco. Instead I found myself reading a, quite sloppy, murder mystery set in Victorian San Francisco. I am all for historical fiction and murder mysteries, but this was just bad historical fiction.
Personally, I consider subtlety to be a marker of good historical fiction. The reader should know where they are in time and space, but should not need constant reminders. Locke however feels the need to constantly remind her readers that they are in San Francisco in the late 1880s by cramming every single stereotype associated with the Victorian period into her work. I will give you some examples:
Annie (the main character) is a clairvoyant and constantly remarks about how her customers as obsessed with the unknown. (The steryotype that everyone in the Victorian era was obsessed with the spiritual realm)
Annie goes to a dance and wear a dress showing her ankles and is therefore mistaken as a prostitute
Annie makes a male character, Nate, blush when she says the words “legs”
Everyone in San Francisco hates the Chinese expect for Nate and Annie because naturally, as the heroes of the story they cannot be racist or sexist.
The plot of this story was not bad. It is a murder mystery and has enough suspense that I wanted to know what happened. It turned into a bit of a romance however (and a messy one at that), and wading through the info-dump of Victorian clichés was a bit more than I could handle. This book is part of a whole series, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest anytime soon.