Death at Chinatown

Frances McNamara. Allium (, $15.99 trade paper (226p) ISBN 978-0-9890535-5-6

McNamara’s mildly diverting fifth Emily Cabot mystery (after 2012’s Death at Woods Hole) takes readers into Chicago’s late 19th-century Chinatown, where a Chinese-born physician of Emily’s acquaintance, Dr. Mary Stone, is accused of killing a local herbalist. Fascinating history underpins the tale: there was a real physician of that name, although she was not accused of murder. Emily and the reader are also able to eavesdrop on Chinatown chat about the coming of modernity to China. However, the story has a decidedly 21st-century feel. Modern-day mommy guilt surfaces in Emily’s life—despite her husband’s support, she is hesitant to leave her two children with the maid to pursue her study of sociology and criminology. McNamara also comments on current-day immigration debates when Emily becomes outraged at a policeman harassing Chinese immigrants over their legal status. These scenes feel distracting and anachronistic, but fans of historical mysteries should still enjoy this visit to 1896 America. (Sept.)