Caroline Fremont Jones revels in her return to San Francisco, where a new city rises from the ruins of the 1906 earthquake. Even more rewarding is her business partnership and rekindled love with ex-spymaster Michael Archer Kossoff. But their private investigation agency is barely off the ground when Fremont's new friend, lovely but quirky Frances McFadden, becomes their first client--and it's a most troubling case.
The adventurous but skeptical Fremont, lured by Frances to a séance, sees her companion fall into a disturbing trance. Despite the opposition of her powerful, controlling husband, Frances is determined to develop her budding psychic ability. Soon she confides to Fremont that a restless spirit from San Francisco's legendary past has entrusted her with a mission.
But when one of the city's female mediums is murdered, and then another, Fremont's reservations turn to dread. Who has killed these women who wield their own power in the metaphysical world, and why? As Fremont's investigation takes her into the murky depths of spiritualism, she places not only herself, but also her dearest friends in mortal danger.
Like all good historical mysteries, Dianne Day's books about a feisty young woman from Boston named Fremont Jones who winds up solving crimes in and around San Francisco in the early 1900s are a delicate balance of odd and exotic period details and characters with motivations we can sympathize with today. The notion that Fremont's lover-partner, a Russian named Michael Kossoff, might be involved in a plot to murder the mad monk Rasputin is made more believable by his endearing habit of bringing home fresh pastries for breakfast. That Fremont's new friend Frances McFadden seems to have summoned up at a seance the spirit of that infamous 19th-century San Francisco character who crowned himself Emperor Norton I of the United States and Defender of Mexico is balanced by the bruises Fremont notices on the battered wife's arms. And descriptions of a determined San Francisco rebuilding itself after the 1905 earthquake remind us of more recent Bay Area disasters. Day writes with wit and energy, and her Fremont Jones is a totally plausible modern woman born a few decades before her time but making the most of that accident of history. The first three books in this laudable series are The Strange Files of Fremont Jones, Fire and Fog, and The Bohemian Murders. --Dick Adler