The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini is a book looking for a niche in genre fiction. Set in late nineteenth century San Francisco with ghostly imagery and mysterious dark characters, the story has the appearance of the increasingly popular Steampunk adventures at first glance. But as the reader digs deeper into the pages (a quick read at only 250 pages), the accuracy of the historical setting and the detailed characters of the time, it is soon evident that the book is much more.
Following the exploits of the main characters first introduced in January 2013 Forge release of The Bughouse Affair, the investigative team of Carpenter and Quincannon once again entertains readers with their skills of deduction and determination. You don’t need to read the first installment in the series to appreciate this second episode. But I’m confident readers who had not yet been introduced to the characters will want to go back and check it out after reading this book.
Sabina Carpenter is a former Pinkerton operative. Working together with her detective partner John Quincannon, an ex-Secret Service agent, the team is drawn into the mystery of debutante’s missing body. Concurrently, the Wells Fargo office is robbed of $35,000. Could the crimes be linked? As the anomalies mount, the pair must solve the crimes before time runs out.
The characters are sculpted with just enough personality to keep the story flowing while leaving a little to the reader’s imagination. They are not over-the-top like many of those found in Steampunk works, which is refreshing. But it is the intricate details of the surroundings and the lifestyle of the characters that makes this story so compelling. It is as much a historical lesson as it is a mystery.
The Spook Lights Affair is not your ordinary mystery, and that’s a good thing. Authors Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini have successfully collaborated to build a wonderful series set in the bright world of an old San Francisco. Filled with delightfully believable characters and meticulous accuracy of historical accounts, this will be a valuable investment for any personal library.