The Shanghai Tunnel
This is the first in Sharan Newman’s Emily Stratton series. Newman always possesses the special key to a portal that transports her readers to other places and times completely.
Leaving Europe behind, she explores her native Portland in 1868. Partly based on real ordinary citizens of that era, she gives them a new life and story. Emily Stratton, China born and recently widowed, arrives in Portland with her sixteen-year-old son to settle in her late husband’s house. She decides to get involved in her husband’s lucrative affairs, refusing to have his partners decide for her. What she learns is not only unsavory but proves dangerous as people start dying around her. However, she is strong and determined, while remaining a woman of her time, and eventually finds out the true goings-on and her own value.
Newman’s smooth writing plunges us without a ripple in that young and thriving city, its pioneer spirit confronted by the stricter codes of the eastern U.S. and to the mores of a growing Chinese population. Cleverly avoiding all stereotypes, her characters are human, believable and stir emotions in the reader. The plot, based on a sordid but unfortunate reality, is engrossing. Whether you enjoy mysteries or not, Newman’s books have something for everyone and should not be missed.