Exploring Old San Francisco


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I like to travel. Sometimes I travel in the real world. (My list has only 15 countries, so I have a ways to go.) Sometimes I can’t, but that doesn’t stop me. I ramble off somewhere just about every day in my imagination or in other authors’ books.

This week I took an invigorating turn through Old San Francisco thanks to Nancy Herriman’s atmospheric No Darkness as Like Death, book four in her series Old San Francisco Mysteries. A horse drawn omnibus takes as across the teeming city, from the mansions of the newly rich and striving to the dark alleys of the seedier neighborhoods with their saloons and less salubrious establishments.

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Celia Davies, the heroine knows the medical professionals of this boisterous young city well, from the well-heeled offices serving high society to her own clinic for women on Vallejo Street to the Hygienic Institute, a fashionable establishment touting miracle cures with its water treatments (which the author describes in some detail), now failing under publicity from a series of murders and thefts on its premises. Finally, the omnibus slowly makes its way past the Ladies Relief Society Home and on past to the peak of Lone Mountain and the cemeteries there, where various subjects of a murder investigation gather to bury a wealthy banker who died at the Institute.

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San Fran may be young, but it is wealthy and ambitious, and seething with political turmoil. It is 1867, and many suffer trauma from the late war, while others try to capitalize on anxieties and upheaval. The murder victim, a prominent Copperhead politician is well known for his incendiary views on race, reconstruction, and universal suffrage, issues dividing and incensing the public. His opponents are no less passionate. If the author doesn’t take us deep into Chinatown in this one as she has in the past, anti-Asian hostility directed at her young cousin is stark on the page. Old San Francisco, in short, feels remarkably like our current times, that horse-drawn omnibus aside.

About the Book

In a new Mystery of Old San Francisco, when a controversial politician is found dead of natural causes, Celia and Nick must prove that his death came about in a most unnatural way . . .

Few in San Francisco were troubled by the news that Ambrose Shaw had been found dead at a local health institute—the prominent banker had recently turned to politics and was reviled by many for his incendiary views. But when Celia Davies learns that his death is considered suspicious by the police and that a damning piece of evidence points to a patient of hers as the culprit, she feels compelled to prove the woman’s innocence.

Teaming up with Detective Nick Greaves, Celia soon discovers there’s no shortage of suspects, including the victim’s many political enemies, his disaffected son, who may have been too eager to receive his inheritance, and even the dead man’s fellow patients at the institute, whose founder promises miracle water cures but has been covering up numerous burglaries of his well-to-do clients. 

As Celia and Nick struggle with their feelings for each other as well as the many murky aspects of the case, they’ll have to navigate an endless trail of false clues and dead ends to reach the cruel truth behind a perplexing murder.

From various retailers.

About the Author

Nancy Herriman left an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. Her work has won the RWA Daphne du Maurier award and when not writing, she enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. After two decades in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio with her family.

In addition to the Old San Francisco Mysteries, she is the author of Bess Ellyott Mysteries, set in medieval times.

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