The Woman in the Camphor Trunk (Anna Blanc)
by Jennifer Kincheloe
Cover Artist: Cover design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht
Review by Mel Jacob
Seventh Street Books Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633883635
Date: 14 November 2017 List Price $15.95 / $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk is the second Anna Blanc Mystery by Jennifer Kincheloe. Former debutante Anna Blanc is multitalented and leads a charmed life any superhero would envy. Despite her intelligence and serious intent, she bumbles her way through murder, mayhem, and a Tong War to solve the murder of a woman.
Anna Blanc, disinherited by her banker father, works for the LAPD as an Assistant Matron but aspires to be a detective. She also has a crush on Detective Joe Singer, son of the Police Chief. He wants a wife but she doesn’t want to be bossed by a man.
Anna accompanies Joe to talk with a Chinese woman about a problem with a lodger. Inside the lodger’s room, they find a dead white woman in a red camphor chest. The room had been let to Leo Lim, but he is missing.
Clues to the woman's identity are elusive as is why she was in the room of a Chinese man. The landlady is not helpful, especially since Anna doesn't speak any of the Chinese languages. No one can explain why the corpse was placed in the trunk.
Complicating matters, the tongs threaten war over the theft of two young singsong girls by an enemy tong. Anna is disturbed to learn the tong intends to use them as prostitutes. The police fear the missing girls may cause a tong war.
Love distracts Joe and Anna, but she is angry when she learns he plans to marry someone else. Meanwhile, she doggedly pursues clues to the murder, while Joe tries to extricate Anna when she gets in danger. She in turns strives to protect him.
While the author has used tidbits of history to anchor the novel in its historical setting, Anna is almost impossible to believe. She calculates ocean tides to determine where a severed head might have come from. She shoots to kill, but subsists on Crackerjacks, sardines, and kippers and knows all the answers to Cracker Jack riddles. Those who like humor in mysteries will probably be willing to accept Anna's foibles and look forward to her next adventure.