The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini

December 3rd, 2013 Kimberly Review 50 Comments

3rd Dec
The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini
The Spook Lights Affair
by Bill Pronzini, Marcia Muller
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

In 1895 San Francisco young debutantes don’t commit suicide at festive parties, particularly not under the eye of Sabina Carpenter. But Virginia St. Ives evidently did, leaping from a foggy parapet in a shimmer of ghostly light. The seemingly impossible disappearance of her body creates an even more serious problem for the firm of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services. Sabina hadn’t wanted to take the assignment, but her partner John Quincannon insisted it would serve as entrée to the city’s ultra rich and powerful. That means money, and Quincannon loves the almighty dollar. Which is why he is hunting the bandit who robbed the Wells, Fargo office of $35,000. Working their separate cases (while Sabina holds John off with one light hand), the detectives give readers a tour of The City the way it was. From the infamous Barbary Coast to the expensive Tenderloin gaming houses and brothels frequented by wealthy men, Quincannon follows a danger-laden trail to unmask the murderous perpetrators of the Wells, Fargo robbery. Meanwhile, Sabina works her wiles on friends and relatives of the vanished debutante until the pieces of her puzzle start falling into place. But it’s an oddly disguised gent appearing out of nowhere who provides the final clue to both cases—the shrewd “crackbrain” who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes. Fans of Marcia’s Muller’s bestselling Sharon McCone novels and Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective series will applaud The Spook Lights Affair and future exploits from the annals of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services.

Earlier this year I enjoyed the first Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery novel,  The Bughouse Affair,  by authors Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. Set in 1800’s San Francisco it features two detectives and the cases they encounter. I was thrilled to enter their world once again in the Spook Lights Affair. While each can be read as a standalone, there are overall arc threads. Mini review: suspenseful, and engaging with lively characters. A thoroughly entertaining mystery.

Carpenter & Quincannon Detective Agency is still in its youth so when a high profile client asks Sabina to babysit their spirited young daughter she grudgingly accepts. The young woman in question is Virginia St. Ives. On a foggy night, while attending a ball, and under the watchful eye of Sabrina, she commits suicide and the body vanishes. This turn of events creates scandal and serious problems for the C & Q Detective Agency. Sabina is determined to figure out what happen and clear her good name.  Meanwhile, Quincannon has set his sights on solving the recent robbery of the Wells Fargo train and earning the agency a hefty reward of 3, 500 dollars. The two are working feverishly on their own cases when a third case involving ghostly apparitions falls into their lap. They gain clues from the man claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. (Who reportedly died in England at the hands of Dr. Moriarty) Clues and suspects had me flipping the pages, and the mystery that unfolded held me captive.

Quincannon and Sabrina are strong, opinionated and brilliant at their work. She previously worked as a Pinkerton operative until her husband was killed in the line of duty. He is ex-Secret service and quite infatuated with Sabrina. She chooses to ignore his advances all of which I find delightful. The two are in a lot of ways total opposites. He is stingy and doesn’t believe in tipping,  and she leaves food on her stoop for a homeless woman. They make an incredible team; yin and yang.  There is a light romance developing  between them, and while  little advancement is made you can see hints of it unfolding. This subtle thread intrigues me without distracting from the mysteries and in my opinion is quite cleverly done. The man who refers to himself as Sherlock Holmes appears again. He is quite a mystery, and I am curious to learn more. Villains, suspects and clients, were colorful and added to the suspense.

Spook Lights Affair offered an excellent addition to the Carpenter & Quincannon Mystery series, solidifying it as a one I will continue. The authors furthered our connection to these characters and again offered up mysterious cases. The adventure kept me entertained as I traveled the streets of San Francisco. We mingling with the upper and lower classes, and it offered us an opportunity to see each of them at work. The tale has enough details regarding 1895 San Francisco to bring the scenery to life, yet allows the cases to be at the forefront making time and place irrelevant. There were clever twists surrounding all three cases and the weaving of them was brilliantly done. While admittedly this Holmes and Christie enthusiast pieced things together, the search for clues and the plot was highly entertaining. I am looking forward to my next adventure with this dynamic duo.

Fans of light detective mysteries and engaging characters will find the Spook Light Affair to be an engaging read. Marcia Miller and Bill Pronzini are an impressive team, and I encourage you to check out the Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery series.

Four cups of coffee out of five
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

50 Responses to “The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini”

  1. Lily B

    How have I not heard of this series yet? I love books like this, gosh it does sound very exciting and engaging. I am going to have to go find book 1!

    On the other note. I actually really like the cover.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Glad you like the cover, while I liked the cover to book one better, this cover matches up to the book pretty well. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did 🙂

  2. Christine

    It’s been years since I regularly read mysteries, but I’m starting to get back into them. I’d never heard of this series, but I’m finding I particularly enjoy mysteries with a historical aspect these days, so thanks for sharing 🙂

    Oh, and I just registered the author’s name — I’ll have to remember to tell my grandma & aunts about this series — they’ve read all of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone books (there are a lot!), but I don’t think they knew she had a new collaborative series 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am excited you are finding mysteries and those with historical settings to be so enjoyable. So cool that your Grandma and Aunts love Muller’s work, I hope they like these.

  3. Andrea

    I love your review! It was so full of information and thoughtfulness. It’s clear you enjoyed The Spook Lights Affair so much.

  4. Berls

    I adore that this is both a mystery and a historical novel – how fun. And the cover is great too! I’m going to have to look up book 1, since I really prefer to read in order. Great review!

  5. Ginny

    This sounds like another one I would enjoy. I really like the Arcane Society books by Amanda Quick and for some reason the blurb of this one made me think of them, so I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the great review and for adding to my stack…again. 🙂

  6. Heidi

    I remember wanting to read the Bughouse Affair, and now the second book is out. ARGH! I think this sounds fantastic. I am always up for a historical and I love historical plus paranormal. Adding this to the ever growing list…. sigh.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      they sneak up on us, you have a year before the next release..LOL

  7. Giselle

    Well the cover wouldn’t attract me to this series but it sounds pretty good. Mysteries are one of the only genres I will read when it comes to historicals and I actually really enjoy them! Great review, Kimba!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Book one had a much nicer cover I think, and these aren’t to weighted with historical deets, I really think you would like Regency romances too.

  8. Braine Talk Supe

    I am feeling cover love for this. I haven’t heard of this series before but I do love the premise and the heroine is my kind of girl. Earmarking this, hopefully my library has it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Awesome Braine, they are a nice mix up from the other genres 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I love series that work as standalone as well, and it looks like each book will deal with specific cases.

  9. Pooja

    haven’t read these yet. they sound interesting, though. it’s been a while since i’ve read a good mystery 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I love these PI mysteries, where everything is done on foot 🙂

  10. Victoria (aka Zemfirka)

    I don’t mind the cover as much, but I wouldn’t have picked this book based on its cover. That aside, I think this sounds like a great story. Detective stories were my first love, so I’m going to check out the first book of the series! Thank you for a wonderful review. 🙂


    • kimbacaffeinate

      The first cover is better, I love these mysteries, it has more gut then a cozy, and the setting adds to the tale.

  11. Jenny

    Ooooo I haven’t heard of this series before Kim, but I’m always up for a book with engaging characters, no matter the genre. I love that she keeps ignoring his advances, that always makes for a great deal of delicious tension. I always look forward to the moment they finally get together!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I agree Jenny, I love when you know there are feelings being denied, and in a series I love when it is drawn out and a secondary thread.

  12. kindlemom1

    That cover is a little busy which is sad because I can see the potential!

    This sounds like it was a great mystery and I like that it is set in a different era.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It really was good, I feel bad that the cover will hinder it.

  13. Mary

    What’s with the uber-busy and highly unattractive cover? I wouldn’t even pick it up to check the blurb if I hadn’t read your review! But, after reading your review, I’m intrigued. I definitely enjoy detective stories and I’m all for stories in different settings than many of my cozies. Plus, how can you go wrong with an MC named Quincannon? It’s fun to say!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      His name is fun to say, and while the book was fantastic, the general consensus is the cover needs to go.

  14. Melissa

    Though the cover leaves something to be desired, the story sounds solid, and I actually like the sound of the mystery, too! You can’t beat that, right? Wonderful review!

  15. Jenea

    I haven’t read anything from the time, I think it would great though. The mystery sounds good too. Wonderful review.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      ha, it isn’t my favorite that is for sure, I didn’t really think about it since I read a white covered ARC. LOL