The Secret Life of Anna Blanc
It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She 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, Anna 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 unwilling to investigate. 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 and stop pouring money into her father's collapsing bank. Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity. And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.
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.
The Secret Life of Anna Blanc left me chuckling throughout the whole story. Anna could totally be Hercule Poirot’s crazy niece. Her deduction skills are great, but she’s not your run of the mill sleuth.
She’s a socialite who wants something more.
The setting of the story takes place during the early 1900s in LA. I went in thinking it was going to be a sort of Noire type read, but it totally exceeded my expectations. There were gruesome crimes, but the tone was lightened up with Anna’s antics. And boy, there is never a dull moment when Anna is around. In her world the men are overtly sexist. Women of class are just supposed to marry and run a good household and never have scandals. The fast paced beginning of the story took me on an incredible journey while Anna provided the turbulence.
Anna has a secret hobby of reading police procedurals and anatomy books. She’s focused on detection stories and hoards them in her room away from the prying eyes of her maid and her father. I might have cringed at her ruining some of the books and burning them to get rid of the evidence of her hobbies, but hey, don’t let that deter you. So naturally she becomes a police matron and fulfills her fantasy of being a detective that way.
I loved the dialogue and how she always swore, but in a totally born in polite society 1900s way. “Biscuits!” and “Jupiter!” are her favorite exclamations. I found my self saying those the other day. (Let me just say I got a few odd looks from my husband).
“Would you kindly refresh my memory? What is a crib?”
He looked up and mouthed the words, “A low-class brothel.”
Anna burst out, “She wants me to go to a brothel? Jupiter!”
There was an obsession of hers with the “Arrow Collar Man” and I had to look it up. She kept using that term for Joe, her love interest and I just had to find out what the heck she was talking about.
I really enjoyed the crime solving as well. The theme of dead prostitutes might be overdone but it still was interesting. Anna’s deduction was fun to read and her interviews and forays all over town were hilarious.
“She’s with the LAPD?” Big Cindy leaned away from Anna.
Madame Lulu rolled her eyes. “God no. She’s from the DDDA. The Dumb Debutante Detective Agency. You don’t tell nobody, you hear? And look out for her. She doesn’t have a lick of sense.”
Besides there being a somewhat annoying relationship between her and Joe, the on again off again, hot to cold-ness to it could be a little tiresome and there were some repetitive things, it was still a fun read. Having gotten to read the next book in the series (not out yet) I would recommend reading this one first just in case you are reading this after the second books’ release.