Uneasy Spirits
by M. Louisa Locke

CreateSpace, 2011. ISBN 978-1-466-37354-9.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 12/07/2011

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Mystery

In Uneasy Spirits, M. Louisa Locke once again takes readers to historical San Francisco where Annie Fuller earns her living running a boarding house and secretly working as a clairvoyant. While it bothers Annie that she has to make a living as Madam Sybil, it bothers her more to learn that another local medium might go so far as to endanger the lives of clients. When she agrees to help ferret out the truth, Annie and her Irish maid, Kathleen, find themselves immersed in unfriendly spirits and trouble.

Miss Pinehurst, one of Annie's borders, summons up the courage to tell Annie about concerns for her sister, who recently lost a child and is spending the family into ruin paying for seances to contact the deceased little boy. While Miss Pinehurst doesn't approve of Annie's persona as Madam Sybil, she hopes Annie's skills will prove that the seances held by the Framptons are a hoax. Annie knows all the "tricks" used to put on theatrical shows and make believers of reluctant customers, and she avoids such tactics, preferring to build personal relationships on trust.

Although Annie expects to make quick work of this investigation, she soon discovers many surprises, including the fact that a child who appears to be in a trance lures vulnerable clients. Help comes from an unexpected source when Kathleen meets an old friend, Biddy, and finds out that she works for the Framptons. The inside information reveals that the suspicions are well-founded. Annie's friends and confidants aren't keen on Annie's continuing the investigation after a couple of not-too-subtle warnings. However, they need hard evidence and that means taking risks.

Nate Dawson, Annie's smitten young suitor and a struggling lawyer, accepts the fact that he loves a woman with unconventional ideas and ambitions. Even so, his fear for her safety pulls him into her investigations and challenges his ability to deal with Annie's independence. In his desire to move the romance along, which is slow and proper in Victorian times, Nate frequently puts his foot in his mouth and takes a couple of steps backward. However, he's determined to try to win Annie's heart, as well as keep her safe.

Locke's knowledge of history and detailed descriptions immerse readers in the routine of daily living in Victorian San Francisco. This book also includes a new feature, a separate side-story that hints at the past and a secret murder, but the connection is vague. That is, it is vague until the end, when the past becomes a very important part of the present—important enough for someone to want Annie and the child medium dead. Will a fiery attempt on Annie's life finally succeed?

The only distraction is that there are more proofreading errors in this book than in the first book, Maids of Misfortune. However, the quality of the story makes up for it, and this series continues to be a good cozy read.

Read an excerpt from this book.

M. Louisa Locke lives in San Diego with her husband. After publishing Maids of Misfortune, the book before Uneasy Spirits, she developed a couple of interesting online venues for readers and writers. Visit Locke's Facebook page to learn more about current projects, Victorian San Francisco, and the characters in this series. She also writes about her experiences as a self-published author in her blog, The Front Parlor and regularly contributes to the website on self-publishing, Publetariat. For more about M. Louisa Locke, visit her website.

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