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By Susan Brassfield Cogan

Hilliard & Harris, August 2004 $16.95
ISBN: 1-59133-056-4

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

"In 1935 the China Clipper is brand new, the Golden Gate Bridge won't be finished until next year and you can drive a car or own a gun without a license." (quote is from the author's notes)

MURDER ON THE WATERFRONT is set in San Francisco, 1935. The author introduces readers to British expatriate and artist Countess of Chesterleigh, or Lady Margaret as her friends call her.

While returning from a late-night jaunt, Lady Margaret witnesses a shooting.

Lady Margaret is not confident that the police will take the case seriously or ever manage to solve it. She is determined to investigate on her own. Reluctantly she agrees to the demands of Inspector Monahan, the police officer assigned to the case, that she keep him informed of her actions as she sets about unraveling the reasons for the shooting.

Monahan is the son of Irish immigrants and is none too pleased with the prospect of a woman, and one of Lady Margaret's standing at that, "assisting" him on an investigation. (I'm not sure which displeases him most, the English nobility or meddling females.) However, the two are forced to work together if they hope to track down a Chinese gangster who may have information they need, including the whearabouts of the killer.

The pairing of these two unlikely partners reminds me a bit of the Inspector Lynely/Sgt. Havers pairing, except in reverse, regarding gender and nobility. And though it's been done many times in other series, the author manages to make this pairing of cop and amateur sleuth seem fresh and innovative.

From the sinister streets of Chinatown to Curly's all-nite cafe on the waterfront the author brings the Depression-era setting of San Francisco alive for the reader. Blackmail, smuggling, Chinese gangsters. What more could you want from a tale of murder on the streets of San Francisco?!?

It's been quite some time since I read a book I was willing to skip lunch to continue reading, but I read straight through from page one to the end without stopping.

Everything clicks. A good story, fascinating characters, and snappy dialogue.

In my mind, reading MURDER ON THE WATERFRONT was reminiscent of the pleasure Jeremy Brett brought to the PBS Mystery! series of the Sherlock Holmes stories for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the plucky Lady Margaret and her friends. Even the minor characters were memorable. Ms. Cogan has created an entire cast of potential series regulars for future Lady Margaret adventures from Henry, her lover, right down to Mary the maid. And no doubt, Inspector Monahan will make a great investigating "partner."

This is one of those rare books that is so enjoyable, when you finish reading the last words on the page, you want to turn back to page one and begin again. No kidding!

I want more Lady Margaret stories please!

There are two Lady Margaret short stories online here:

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