The Shanghai Tunnel
Forge, Feb 2008, $24.95
In 1867 Horace Stratton decides to return home to Portland after a very successful business trip in Shanghai. Accompanied by his wife Emily and their teenage son Robert they reach San Francisco in January 1868; only Horace dies there. The dutiful daughter of missionaries, feeling some guilt for she knows she never lived up to her husband’s expectations, Emily and Robert bring Horace’s body home to be buried in Portland.
The surviving Strattons plan to live in Horace’s hometown; not aware of how rough and tumble of a place it is in spite of leading citizens hoping to turn it into the San Francisco of the northwest. However, the widow and her son are not welcomed by Portland’s elitists especially those who partnered with Horace. They are ignorant as to how much she really knows and understands about her late husband’s unethical and mostly illegal activities; and her plans to learn what she does not know. Still they will not take chances and plot to drive her and her son out of town; if they fail to run her out then they will bury her next to her deceased husband.
THE SHANGHAI TUNNEL (in an afterward Sharan Newman explains that the tunnels exist under Portland’s streets) is an enjoyable and riveting historical amateur sleuth tale that brings alive Reconstruction Era Portland, which obviously has come a long way from its salad days. The Oregonians are a deep support cast, but the story line totally belongs to the courageous widow as she surprises everyone including her self with her grit by refusing to leave. Horace must be turning in his grave witnessing what he never saw in his wife; as the mouse roars. Ms. Newman begins her new historical saga (see Catherine LeVenduer historical mysteries) with a winning mid nineteenth century thriller.