Monday, September 28, 2015

The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Bughouse Affair
by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group discussed the (supposedly) 3-volume “Carpenter and Quincannon” mystery series by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini for its August 2015 meeting. The Bughouse Affair was my first exposure to this series, and I’ll have to admit to some mixed feelings. The covers of the three volumes put out by Forge all make it look, vaguely, like these are mysteries crossed with paranormal and/or science fiction elements. The titles also made me think that — The Bughouse Affair, The Spook Lights Affair, The Body Snatchers Affair. However, this series turns out to be a pretty straight-forward historical mystery series, set in 1890s San Francisco. Sabina Carpenter is a former Pinkerton operative, and the widow of a fellow Pinkerton agent who died on the job. John Quincannon is a former U.S. Secret Service agent who left the service after a tragic accident has left him with a case of post-traumatic shock. Together, they’ve formed a San Francisco private detection agency. In The Bughouse Affair, they are each working on separate cases — she’s tracking a female pickpocket targeting carnival guests, he’s trying to identify and stop a skilled burglar who’s hitting the homes of the wealthy. By the end of the book, the two cases have tied together. I loved Sabina — she’s a remarkable, strong, level-headed female detective character in a time period where such accomplishments would be rare. Quincannon, on the other hand, I never warmed to. He’s bull-headed, brusque and full of himself. Yet…he’s observant and has uncanny intuition and stick-to-it-iveness.

I would recommend this series to anyone who likes humorous mysteries, witty banter or historical mysteries that don’t take themselves too seriously. At the top of this review, I stated “supposedly 3 volumes”. As the group discussed this series, we discovered that it is based on a series of earlier novels and/or story collections by Bill Pronzini alone, from the 1980s and 1990s, that introduced these characters. If you like this item, you might like these too – The earlier Carpenter & Quincannon stories and novels, most of which you would have to get through the libraries’ InterLibrary Loan service, as they don’t currently exist in the Lincoln City Libraries’ collection!

[ publisher’s official Carpenter and Quincannon web site ] | [ official Marcia Muller web site ] | [ Wikipedia entry for Bill Pronzini ]

See The Carpenter and Quincannon Series handout prepared for the Just Desserts group

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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