Genre: Historical Mystery/Thriller
Source: Received audio download for review as part of the tour with Audiobookworm Productions
It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, she buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are covering up. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself.
If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding.
Anna must choose--either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.
Prepare for me to fan-girl all over this review. You have been warned!
I couldn’t get enough of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc from the moment I picked it up! I listened to it every moment that I had: in the car commuting to work, while at work, while running on the treadmill, out-loud while sitting at home with my husband (which made for some extremely comical discussion!). I didn’t want the book to end and I’m thrilled to learn that this is a series and book 2 is coming out at the end of this year so I can inhale more of Anna Blanc!
One of the things that immediately connected me to this book was the style. It reminded me in many ways of the early Janet Evanovich comedy/romance/mystery novels: girl is completely out of her depths trying to solve a mystery and has no idea what she is doing. Beyond that, Kincheloe’s writing style is full of wit and comedic timing. I was constantly laughing either at what one of the characters was doing or how they were saying it.
Anna is delightfully naïve in the world of the underbelly of society, which makes sense because she comes from money. But she wants to get out and see more of the world, not sit around and wait to get old while her father refuses to find a man for her to marry. She is bold and daring and comes up with an over-the-top way to become employed as a police matron at the local police station. Is she qualified? Not in the slightest. Does she get the job because the man hiring her thinks she is nice to look at? Absolutely.
But despite her lack of skills, somehow Anna manages to get the job done…with a lot help from both willing and unwilling friends and accomplices. Officer Joe Singer is one of those sometimes willing and unwilling friends. Thinking back on it now, he really reminds me a lot of Luke from Gilmore Girls: totally in love with the heroine and will do anything to help her, but will go out of his way to make it seem like a hardship and be grouchy about doing it. I loved how Kincheloe played Anna and Joe off of each other and their conversations were some of the best of the book. The author really knows how to write banter between two people who are so at odds with each other but totally into one another.
Oh, and speaking of the writing – hands down, the best parts were when we get inside Anna’s head and what she is thinking, especially when it comes to romance where she is a complete novice. In terms of what happens in the book, it’s no more than PG-13, but Anna’s thoughts are hilarious in where she takes these rendezvous. (It’s even more hilarious when your husband walks into the room when one of these segments is playing out loud and he abruptly walks back out of the room! I credit the author with some entertaining conversations that arose from this over the rest of the week.)
Beyond the mystery storyline, there is a lot to be said about women, their rights, and how they are perceived during this time. Anna attends a rally for women’s right to vote (really just because she wants to do something sensational), which gets her arrested and infuriates her father. On the job there is a lot of sexist remarks made toward Anna or spoken in front of her (lots of conversations about going to the horse stables with Joe and what that means, true or not). Her father and fiancé are appalled with her antics and want her to be well behaved – she even ends up with a bevy of chaperones and the lengths she goes to in order to get around them are hilarious. Then beyond Anna, there is the whole element of the brothel girls and how the deaths of these girls is handled and how these women are treated. It was all very well integrated into the novel as a whole.
I cannot wait for book 2 to be released and will be on my auto-buy list as I had the most fantastic time reading this book. This is an EXCELLENT debut from this author and I have and will continue to highly recommend this book to everyone I talk with.
You know how I was fan-girling hard above? It continues here too!
This was one of THE best audio productions I have listened to and I am even more impressed as it appears it was published by the author, because the quality is that of one of the big name audiobook publishers. It is excellently narrated. Moira Quirk is someone that would now lead me to pick up a book I’m not even interested in because she could interest me in it through her performance (believe me, I have already went and shelved a few of her other works in my Audible wishlist that are paranormal in genre, which isn’t my typical thing). And a performance it truly is. Quirk doesn’t just read the novel, but imbues Kincheloe’s characters with even more life. As I stated above, Kincheloe wrote some amazing characters that I loved, but Quirk brings out their complete nature to where you feel like they are standing in the room next to you. Yes, each character has their own unique voice, but many narrators do that. However, Quirk not only brings a different voice, but you can envision their mannerisms as well just from the way they are speaking. I’m not sure how she does this, but whatever it is, keep doing it! There is quite the range of nationalities and type of personalities in this novel and Quirk makes them all feel truly real, not cookie cutter or stereotyped. And there is singing! Actual singing! That is one of the things that always disappoints me is when a part that is clearly intended to be sung is instead simply read. And while I know that there are often legitimate reasons this has to be done, it does take away from the experience of the book and colors my perception of it.
Loved the book, loved the production, loved the narrator! Go pick up this book in print (if you don’t listen to books), but I HIGHLY encourage you to check out this audiobook production, it is FANTASTIC and you will not regret it!
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Also by Jennifer Kincheloe:
Follow the Tour!
Mar. 1: Chapter Break (Review, Spotlight, Dream Cast, & Narrator Interview)
Mar. 2: Candid Ceillie (Review & Author Interview)
Mar. 4: Lilly's Book World (Review)
Mar. 5: The Desert Bibliophile (Review & Spotlight)
Mar. 7: Working Mommy Journal (Review)
Mar. 9: Babs Book Bistro (Review & Spotlight)
Mar. 12: History From A Woman's Perspective (Review)