“The Secret Life of Anna Blanc,” by Jennifer Kincheloe

It is 1907 Los Angeles, and someone is killing prostitutes.

It is not a series of crimes anyone seems eager to acknowledge, let alone solve. Everyone seems happy to suppose the deaths are all suicides. No, if anyone is going to get to the bottom of this case, it will be Anna Blanc, a ravishing young socialite with a bit of imagination, some powers of observation and a tendency to be distracted by men and the things she might do with them.

This is the backbone of “The Secret Life of Anna Blanc.” Jennifer Kincheloe’s novel is genuinely funny, veering from mystery to romance to slapstick in a fast-paced and amusing plot with a bit of action, to boot. Anna, although somewhat shallow by nature and lacking a good deal of knowledge regarding how the world works, can be forgiven because of her youth. She has redeeming qualities, too; she is observant, curious and determined. Like Catherine in Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey,” Anna is quite fond of lurid novels. She imagines herself solving crimes and having adventures, and by golly, she goes right ahead and does both.

 As the series continues, we can expect Anna to mature and grow. For now, her youthful impetuousness leads her into all sorts of trouble, and a sexy young socialite getting into trouble and solving crimes is quite fun to read about.

And, oh, does she get into trouble. Anna wanders from one implausible situation to the next, and from one infatuation to the next, but that’s OK. The deeper the hole she digs for herself, the more fun it is to read on to see how she gets out of it.

 Anna also has to cope with a great number of problems familiar to modern women everywhere; at times while reading you might think we’ve come a long way since 1907. At other times, you’ll realize maybe we haven’t come that far, after all. In any event, I am certain female readers will feel a good deal of empathy, and I think male readers might just learn a damned thing or two.

 Kincheloe writes with wit and a keen sense of pace. I suspect she has a hit series on her hands, and I look forward to more of Anna’s preposterous adventures.


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