Scandal on Rincon Hill


In 1881, San Francisco is still a rough and rowdy city, with bordellos lining the streets near the busy wharves and ruthless tongs that patrol the borders insulating Chinatown from the Anglo-only society that dominates city life. Among the genteel ladies and ambitious businessmen who strive to create a life of refinement and civilized behavior, Sarah Woolson stands out — daughter of a judge, sister of a state senator — and one of only three women attorneys in California. Sarah always takes the side of the underdog, and this fourth story of the intrepid female lawyer is no different: prostitutes and young Chinese immigrants are her main clientele, much to her mother’s dismay — after all, Sarah is already twenty-eight and obviously headed for eternal spinsterhood — and such unsavory clients only make her prospects worse.

A series of brutal murders not two blocks from the Woolsons’ home present Sarah with an increasingly tense mystery to solve, in addition to the seemingly hopeless task of helping a young unwed mother prevail upon her scurrilous lover to support her. But there is also love waiting in the wings — not one but two handsome suitors continually barrage Sarah, hoping she’ll give in some day and put aside the law books for cookbooks.

A fun read, a little slow at first and with sometimes uneven writing (too much description of mundane activity, for example, and odd word usage that apparently replicates the diction of the times but which is awkward to read), but overall an engaging story with a good ending.

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