Sunday, December 13, 2009

Murder in Nob Hill by Shirley Tallman

The year is 1880, the place San Francisco. Intelligent,
outspoken Sarah Woolson is a young woman with a goal and the fortitude to achieve it. She has always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. The trouble is, everyone believes women belong in the home – that it is not only unnatural, but against God’s will for them to seek a career.

When Sarah finagles an interview with one of the city’s most prestigious law firms, no one thinks she has a prayer of being hired. Except Sarah. Using her brains and a little subterfuge, she not only manages to become the firm’s newest (and only female) associate attorney, she also acquires her first client—a lovely young society matron suspected of brutally stabbing to death her wealthy but abusive husband. Sarah is sure of her client’s innocence, but the revelation of the woman’s secret lover may make that innocence impossible to prove.When four more victims fall prey to the killer’s knife, Sarah fears she has bitten off more than she can chew. Bucking her boorish employer and the judicial system, Sarah finds herself embroiled in shady legal maneuvers, a daring Chinatown raid, and a secret and very scandalous sex club in this irresistible blend of history, romance, and murder.
Sarah Woolson is the younger daughter of a prominent family of San Francisco. Her father is a respected judge and she always wanted to follow his footsteps and practice law. While having all the requirements, a woman attorney was not a common thing in 1880. But Sarah is not easily put down and with the help of her brother, she manages to get an interview with Shepherd, McNaughton and Hall (a renowned law firm). There she meets Annjennet Hannaford, a young widow and a client of the firm but who gets a patronizing answer to her economical concerns caused by her husband’s recent murder. Sarah’s attention is immediately caught by the lady's situation and she offers her services to Annjennet, to great despair and annoyance of Shepherd.

Sarah is one of those heroines I can’t help admiring. She’s intelligent and brave, nothing stops her until the mystery is solved. Even if pampered and protected by her father, she knows how privileged she is and that awareness grows during her investigations.

My favorite moments are the bickering scenes between our heroine and Robert Campbell. It’s hilarious when she calmly and logically explains something to her stubborn and quick temper colleague.
I also enjoyed the glimpses of the town’s Chinese community, something I don’t often read about. The mysterious Li Ying is a wonderful character and I truly hope to see more of him in Tallman’s future books.

Not only the portrait of 19th century San Francisco caught my attention right away but the fast pace mystery keeps you guessing until the end.

Grade: 4/5


  1. Oh excellent! I've been enjoying a similar series set about 20 years later and the first two books are set in SF (Fremont Jones series by Dianne Day). I simply must check this one out!

  2. its great when a mystery read can keep you guessing until the end. great review!