Entangled Threads, the eighth full-length novel in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, is now available to purchase as an ebook and in print on all major retailers.
As most of you know, my goal in writing the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series has always been to feature those women who lived and worked in San Francisco at the end of the nineteenth century. I had done a statistical analysis of the 1880 United States manuscript census for my dissertation, and my intention was to illustrate the lives of these women through my mysteries.
This was the reason I came up with a female protagonist who would have a reason to investigate crimes that occur in different occupational settings. At the beginning of the series, this protagonist, Annie Fuller, is a widow who owned a boardinghouse and supplemented her income as a pretend clairvoyant who gave domestic an advice. I figured between the boarders and staff in the boardinghouse, and Madam Sibyl’s clients, I would have plenty of opportunities for mysteries to solve that would involve different jobs held by women in that period and place.
The first occupation I focused on was domestic service, because in 1880, nearly a third of all employed San Francisco women held this job, a proportion that went up to 44 percent if you looked just at single women under the age of 29, the largest group of women working for wages that year. Consequently, in Maids of Misfortune, the first book in the series, I had Annie go undercover as a servant to discover who killed one of Madam Sibyl’s clients.
Since Maids of Misfortune, I have continued to expand on the lives of domestic servants through storylines that describe the day-to-day tasks done by the boardinghouse servants––the cook, Mrs. Beatrice O’Rourke, and the two maids, Kathleen Hennessey, and Tilly Gallagher. See, for example, Beatrice Bests the Burglars, Kathleen Catches a Killer, and Tilly Tracks a Thief.
However, the rest of the full-length novels in the series have focused primarily on jobs that would be classified as white-collar or highly skilled work: spiritualists in Uneasy Spirits, public school teachers in Bloody Lessons, typesetters in Deadly Proof, department store clerks and skilled dressmakers in Pilfered Promises, university students in Scholarly Pursuits, and nurses and doctors in Lethal Remedies. This is why I decided that in my next book, which became Entangled Threads, I would use a setting that was more representative of the kind of semi-skilled jobs held by the working-class women who were not servants, in this case, manufacturing work within a factory setting.
In 1880, in San Francisco, a number of young, single women, primarily of Irish or British parentage, could be found working in factories that produced a variety of goods like canned fruit, boxes, cigars, and clothing-related products like gloves, boots and shoes, and wool cloth. After some preliminary research, I decided that I would focus on a woolen factory as my setting. Fortunately, I had already introduced a character in previous stories, Bridget O’Malley (Biddy), who had previously worked in a woolen factory, and Biddy became a major character is this novel as she helps Annie investigate what is going on in the Potrero Woolen Mills.
I do hope you will all enjoy Entangled Threads as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it!
M. Louisa Locke, January 25, 2022