Los Angeles 1928. The trial is underway for those involved in the C C Julian Petroleum stock scandal – a foreshadowing of things to come for the US economy. Sarah Kaufman, an Ohio probate officer, was one of the victims of the scheme and has come to the city to observe the trial, in particular to see the man who tricked her into investing be sent to prison. But Sarah has problems of her own, as she is still reeling from a series of murders that she helped to solve in Tennessee.
Content to simply observe the trial, Sarah’s plans are scuppered when a Mexican woman that she hardly knows is murdered. As she looks into the death to bring justice for someone that nobody seems to care about, she finds herself on a nightmare of a journey to Mexico and back again in pursuit of a deadly killer.
This is the third novel in this series from author Ona Russell – not a very easy set of books to get hold off, but the author was nice enough to send me a copy to take a look at. And it’s well worth a look.
After finishing the book, I did a little research and discovered how much of the background to the story was true events. The C C Julian scandal was a real thing – maybe US readers may be aware of it, but it’s not something that’s ever crossed my radar. In fact, there are a number of real bits and pieces thrown in – arguably a little too much, as the trial at times distracted from the main plot and there are a couple of celebrity cameos that didn’t add much. But the historical research is impeccable – the theme of rascism layered throughout the tale, both anti-Mexican and anti-Semitic, is handled with an accomplished touch.
The characters – Sarah, her sort-of boyfriend Mitchell, the mysterious Carlos – all spring off the page as fully-formed individuals, all with their own agendas. There are times when the central mystery – and there is a mystery here, complete with clues, although there is a bit of a dearth of suspects – takes a back seat to the characters’ journeys, but those journeys are interesting enough to distract the reader from this.
A thoughtful, intelligent read that anyone with an interest in US history should enjoy. Recommended.