Chinawoman's Chance: 1 (Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries) by James Musgrave
5 Stars: Murder Rush
My continue adventures in "Summer Reading" took a hiatus because I moved from Zhenjiang back to my favorite and colorful city Wuhan. But I did get the chance to read a few books and shall remain on my grind for the rest of the summer.
If you are an aficionado of historical fiction like me and appreciate a well-crafted murder mystery and courtroom drama I recommend "Chinawoman’s Chance (Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries)" by Jim Musgrave. 1884 San Francisco introduces us to Clara, a lawyer in the mist of inequality for her gender and Chinese immigrants with blowhards, power-hungry politicians, gangs, and general lawlessness of San Francisco. Clara takes on a case and defends a young Chinese man accused of a gruesome murder of a morally struggling prostitute.
I particularly like the dialogue between the characters in my head as I am picturing the police investigation of the late 1800s I imagine such a hideous crime of someone defleshing a human would be shocking in those times. A rush to judgment to appease the natives by blaming a member of the Chinese Tongs in an already volatile era of racial hatred towards the Chinese who have been ghettoized hence the importance of understanding "The Chinese Exclusion Act." "Chinawoman’s Chance" ties corruption in the justice system, hate mongering by politicians, the birth of feminism and activism illustrating times have changed some things remain the same.
Beyond a Sherlock Holmes-like set up and who did it, this historical fiction is strong with humanity and provides a microscope on our historical failings of accepting people who don't look like us and the dangers of tribalism. Clara is an example of someone who searched within their humanity and realized that everyone is looking for and deserves dignity.