The Plague of Thieves Affair (Carpenter and Quincannon)
by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Cover Artist: Gordon Crabb
Review by Mel Jacob
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765381040
Date: 26 January 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Sabrina Carpenter and John Quincannon, a team of detectives in San Francisco, 1896, pursue two different villains in the latest offering by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. Sabrina is hired to protect an exhibition of antique reticules (ladies small purses) while Quincannon is hot on the trail of a murderer and a stolen recipe for a renowned Steam Beer. Murder lies in wait for both.
John has to deal with the more violent offenders. While convinced he knows the culprit in the theft and ensuing murder of a brew master, he must still find the villain and learn what happened to the stolen formula. He uses cunning and brute force to ferret out the needed information. His search takes him beyond San Francisco.
Meanwhile, S. Holmes, an alternate persona of Charles Percival Fairchild III, appears and tells Sabrina someone will try to steal Marie Antoinette's priceless reticule from the display she is guarding. A cousin of Charles is seeking him because of a lucrative inheritance and has asked Sabrina to locate Charles.
Sabrina accepts Holmes's aid, but encourages him to contact his cousin. However, when he does, the cousin is murdered and the cousin's wife identifies Holmes as the killer.
Meanwhile, Quincannon purses the elusive trail of the murder cum thief. Finding the killer will not be easy nor will identifying those behind the crime.
Underlying the various events is the relationship between Sabrina and Quincannon and that between them and Holmes. Quincannon dislikes Holmes and is jealous of him. Sabrina finds Holmes attractive, courtly, and intelligent, but still deplores his insistence that he is indeed Holmes.
Both the authors of the Carpenter and Quincannon series are well established mystery writers with other novels to their credit. Here, they maintain a real sense of the period and the problems both a woman detective and a rough and tumble former Secret Service member face for acceptance as competent detectives working together. Other titles in the series include The Bughouse Affair (2013), The Spook Lights Affair) (2014), and The Body Snatchers Affair (2015).