Annie Fullerman received a letter from a man named Driscoll about an unpaid five-year-old loan (plus the interest) of her deceased husband to him. But, the money she gets from her borders and psychic services will not be enough to pay him. If she failed to raise the amount, she will lose the boarding house she inherited from her Aunt Agatha.
Annie has planned to share her troubles with her client and close friend, Matthew Voss. He can certainly give a piece of advice on what to do or perhaps, help her get a loan to pay off the debt. Unfortunately, her plans will never have a chance to materialize. The businessman’s death was already in the newspapers. It got more complicated when the police identified it as suicide. Annie was shocked because her friend was financially fine and hasn’t shared any family troubles in his past consultations. The Vosses lawyer, Nate Dawson, went to her to ask about Sibyl (her clairvoyant name) and has disclosed the amount she will receive from Matthew. But his assets went missing including her inheritance. Out of desperation to know the truth, Annie will apply to the Voss as a maid. Who should she suspect? Matthew’s wife, son, sister, maids, or his business partner?
About the book: Maid of Misfortune was written by M. Louisa Locke. It was the first book in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery.
Characters: Annie Fullerman is the usual Victorian heroine that is stubborn, strong-headed, and independent. She became a widow after losing her husband suddenly. All of their possessions, especially, their house had gone to settle John’s debt. The house she inherited from her Aunt has helped her rise up in that difficult situation. She converted it to a boarding house to earn some money. Under the name Sibyl, Annie became a psychic offering business and domestic advice.
She’ll develop a romantic feeling towards Nate Dawson. Their first meeting was kind of funny because Nate thought that she was Matthew’s mistress. He has a strong personality as well. There’s a mild sexual tension between them though Nate is always in control of his feelings towards Annie. Sometimes I felt his hesitation in expressing that passionate feeling. I’m thinking that perhaps there’s a history behind it that wasn’t disclosed yet in this book. Nate hates it when Annie puts herself in dangerous situations like applying to the Voss as a maid to investigate on her own because he won’t be able to protect her in that house thinking ‘What if the real murderer is inside it?’. Nonetheless, that’s a brave act from Annie.
Annie has a strong relationship with her maids, Beatrice and Kathleen, as well as, with her old couple boarder, Mr. and Mrs. Stein. They are one family and she trusts them so much.
Plot: The story has a slow pacing. The protagonist isn’t a detective and it’s her first time meddling in a murder investigation. Well, in fairness, she‘s a sharp thinker. Her involvement has helped to open the possibility of murder instead of suicide. This is one of the murder mystery books where the police have a minimal part in the investigation and they are slow to act. Nate is there to give Annie some pieces of information that could help to move the case. But, he finds it hard to grasp why they have to suspect one of Matthew’s loved ones and trusted friend. Well, it’s valid, in a way, because he doesn’t have a personal relationship with the Vosses. Though, initially, he seemed like a person who possesses little curiosity in cases like this knowing that he’s a lawyer.
It has a solid element of confusion. Everyone has the motive to kill. The romance side of the story was also slowly built which didn’t help in filling some dull portions.
Recommendations: Do read this book if you are a fan of Victorian murder mystery with a woman as the main protagonist. The romantic angle is present though it didn’t get the center stage. It contains occasional profanity.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. The minus 2 points are more on my comment with the story pacing.