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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Spiritualist Murders: Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries, Volume 2 is an historical mystery novel written by James Musgrave. Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq., had been attending a suffragist meeting at the Supreme Grand Lodge of the Rosicrucians. In the repressive atmosphere of 1886, the spiritualist meetings offered by places such as this were the only venues where women in the suffragist movement could meet. After the meeting, her attention was grabbed by the sight of a young woman crying alone on one of the benches in the meeting-house. She reminded Clara of her own daughter, Trella Evelyn. When she spoke to the young woman, Clara made note of the girl’s distracted and almost unresponsive manner as she bemoaned the fact that “he” had not been called to the stand. Being an attorney, Clara was instantly intrigued. When she learned that the trial was of a woman who had been charged with the murder of her husband, a woman who had been represented by Laura Gordon, a friend and fellow attorney, she was even more determined to parse out the truth in what Adeline had to say.
James Musgrave’s historical murder mystery novel, The Spiritualist Murders: Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries, Volume 2, is a fascinating and enjoyable mystery set in San Francisco in the late 1800s. While this is the second book in Musgrave’s Portia of the Pacific series, the author gives enough background information for this book to be read on its own. That said, I’d highly recommend readers begin with the first book in the series, Chinawoman’s Chance, which is an absorbing story that focuses on the challenges faced by women attorneys in that era as well as on the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and does so in a taut, well-written mystery. In this novel, Musgrave addresses the impact of the Spiritualist Movement and the opportunities it gave women to meet and work for equality and voting rights. The author’s plot is finely honed, offering the armchair sleuth plenty of red herrings to consider, and his characters continue to delight and enthrall. Musgrave brings the San Francisco of the 1880s to life in his novels while offering the mystery lover compelling puzzles and a competent and most appealing attorney/sleuth. The Spiritualist Murders: Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries, Volume 2 is most highly recommended.