Sunday, September 28, 2014

Death at Chinatown (Emily Cabot Mysteries #5), by Frances McNamara

Allium Press of Chicago, ISBN 9780989053556, August 2014

It's the summer of 1896 in Chicago, and Emily Cabot is now Emily Chapman. She is married to Stephen Chapman and the mother of two young children. Her sleuthing days and her days in academia alike are over. With the amazing and heavy responsibilities of two young lives, how can she neglect them for even a moment?

Then Stephen insists that she attend a demonstration of the new, still experimental, x-ray machine at the university. He introduces her to Mary Stone and Ida Kahn, two young Chinese women who came to America to study medicine. Their medical degrees in hand, at the end of the summer they will be returning to China to open a women's hospital. Emily is unhappy when Stephen corners her into inviting them to tea, but it's only one afternoon, right?

When her old friend, Detective Whitbread, arrives to arrest Mary for the murder of an herbalist in Chinatown, the reader knows her sleuthing days are not behind her, although Emily resists the knowledge for a while longer.

This is a fascinating look at a transitional period in American society, as well as a good mystery. Mary Stone and Ida Kahn are real historical figures, though neither was accused of murder. Other figures, such as the journalist and Chinese civil rights activist Wong Chin Foo, and the Moy family and their extensive business activities, including translation services and manufacturing of documents for Chinese wanting to immigrate to the US, are also quite real, though these events are fictional.
Emily is part of a largely forgotten generation of American women. They could get excellent advanced education if their families supported it. They could even have academic careers--but were expected to withdraw from them if they married, and certainly if they became mothers. Emily is among the first generation of women to seriously challenge that expectation. Her husband Stephen is a keeper, supporting both her academic studies in sociology and criminal anthropology, and the amateur sleuthing that grew out of it.

This was a lot of fun to read. Recommended.

I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.