Imagine a foggy night in 1895 San Francisco. A formally dressed young woman flees from a lavish party hosted by the mayor, Sabina Carpenter in close pursuit across spacious grounds and up onto a parapet overlooking the sea. In her flowing white gown the girl climbs onto a low wall, stands like a spectral image in the fog, and then presumably leaps to hear death down the sheer cliff beyond. Presumably, because her body is nowhere to be found on the deserted highway below.
Meanwhile, John Quincannon, Sabina's partner in Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, is on the trail of a bandit who robbed the Wells, Fargo office of $35,000. A tip leads him to a ramshackle cabin atop Telegraph Hill, where he discovers the murdered body of a man who may or may not be thief -- and no sign of the missing money.
So begins THE SPOOK LIGHTS AFFAIR, the second entry in our collaborative series about this intrepid duo. What ensues is an increasingly complicated mix that leads, among other places, to a deserted estate the Burlingame hills and to Carville-by-the-Sea, a ramshackle collection of old trolley cars scattered among the sand dunes on the western edge of S.F., where another case of mysterious m"spook lights" is taking place. Working separately and together, they find that their investigations intersect. And they receive unexpected help in solving them from the shrewd "crackbrain" (introduced in the previous novel, THE UGHOUSE AFFAIR) who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes.
Background note: Sabina and Quincannon were originally created by Bill for his 1985 novel, QUINCANNON. At that time John was an agent with the San Francisco office of the U.S. Secret Service, and Denver-based Sabina was one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency's women operatives known as "Pink Roses," and both were working undercover in a small mining town in Idaho. Later John quit the Service to open his own detective agency, and convinced her to move to S.F. and join him as an equal partner. Their various and often gender-based skills allow them to work well together. The only problem that lies between them is John's infatuation with Sabina and her determination to keep the relationship on a strictly professional basis. But surely, he wistfully thinks, the day will come when she will succumb to his charms. Is he right or wrong? Stay tuned....
Teaser: We've just delivered the third novel in the series, THE BODY SNATCHERS AFFAIR. In this one, the wife of an opium-addicted lawyer enmeshes Quincannon in intrigue in S.F.'s Chinatown involving murder and the theft of the embalmed
corpse of a recently deceased tong leader, evidently by a rival tong. Sabina, meanwhile, in addition to assisting John on the Chinatown business, finds herself investigating two different, unrelated cases -- another body-snatching, this one of the remains of a rich Nob Hill businessman from the family crypt,
and a disturbing mystery rooted in the past of the socialite stockbroker she's currently dating. Also involved yet again: the enigmatic gent who calls himself S. Holmes.