The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

Jennifer Kincheloe’s THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC is a wonderful debut historical mystery with an amateur sleuth protagonist who is completely unforgettable. Anna is a rebellious turn of the century woman who will appeal to the modern reader. She’s not content to live within the constraints imposed on many women in the early 20th century. She seeks freedom and adventure, and a purpose in life beyond the pampered class she’s been born into.

Anna is a charming protagonist. She has a wild streak, is extremely tenacious, and possesses the kind of boldness to get her into trouble along with the resourcefulness to find a way out. Usually. When she applies for and gets a job as a police matron for Los Angeles Police Department, she finally has a chance to break out of her ordered world, but she also gets secretly involved with investigating a series of murders that the police don’t seem terribly interested in looking into.

The story moves along at a quick pace that never left me bored, but still allowed for lots of details about the time period and character development of Anna and the many other characters in the story. Romance plays a surprisingly big part in the novel, and Anna has several potential love interests over the course of the book. I personally enjoyed the romantic entanglements and felt they enriched the story, but there was a bit more focus on Anna’s love life than I am used to in many historical mysteries.

For those who enjoy historical mysteries with strong female amateur sleuth protagonists, romance woven throughout the story, and rich historical details, I thoroughly recommend Jennifer Kincheloe’s debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC. Anna is a quirky, gutsy protagonist, who won me over from the first chapter.

Book Blurb for 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.

Night Owl Reviews Feb, 2016 4.00