Book Review: Skulduggery

Anthropologist Ellen Christie, known throughout San Francisco as “the bone lady” thanks to a brief newspaper article was intrigued when Jimmy, a young Chinese man urged her to come look at a skull that came into his possession. Even knowing it was a bad idea to go off with a complete stranger at night to parts unknown, Ellen couldn’t resist the temptation and her intuition was right on all accounts. The skull was indeed that of the Peking Man, missing since 1941 and worth an enormous fortune. Of course, Ellen was also correct about going off with a stranger. Two unidentified thugs jumped Jimmy and Ellen; now both the skull and Jimmy are missing and his lawyer brother Dan is understandably dubious about her role in whatever is going on.

In an effort to discover what happened to Jimmy and the skull, Dan and Ellen team up in to reconstruct the events of the previous two days. Hopefully, by meeting with those people Jimmy met, it will be possible to figure out not only how he got the skull but also where he is now, dead or alive. Dan and Ellen’s detective work will take them throughout Chinatown, from affluent import shops to families and elders living in abject poverty and pit them against a malevolent merchant who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Set in the 1980’s, this fun detective romp takes readers through San Francisco’s Chinatown via secret passages, back alleys, posh restaurants and decrepit tenement houses. While revealing a side of Chinatown most never witness, Hart also manages to impart a great deal of information about human evolution and fossils non-monetary value. It is fun watching Dan despair of his little brother ever graduating collage and making something of himself, then learning that Jimmy is working hard toward other, perhaps more meaningful goals. At only one hundred seventy five pages, this slim novel manages to deliver a rollicking good story flavored by just a touch of romantic interest.


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