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The Bughouse Affair (A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery #1)

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  651 ratings  ·  176 reviews
In this first of a new series of lighthearted historical mysteries set in 1890s San Francisco, former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon, undertake what initially appear to be two unrelated investigations.

Sabina’s case involves the hunt for a ruthless lady “dip” who uses fiendish means to relieve her vict
Hardcover, First, 272 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Forge Books
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(showing 1-30 of 1,290)
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David Monroe
There are many things wrong and I could nit-pick. There are many things I enjoyed, too. The main problem for me, is that this is the fourth in Bill Pronzini's Quincannon series and first in the Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery, jointly written with his wife - noted mystery author, Marcia Muller. For me and I'm sure for many readers, it was our entree into these characters. So why add the extra distraction of including the most famous fictional Detective in modern history? In the Carpenter/Quinca ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Ed rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bill Pronzini/Marcia Muller mystery fans
This fun outing is the collaborative effort of husband and wife Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller. A burly, tough Scotsman John Quincannon and a former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter run a private detective partnership in San Francisco late in the nineteenth century. I don't if Bill and Marcia wrote the male and female protagonists respectively, but the narrative is a seamless read if they did. I liked the historical details and vivid realistic setting besides the two protagonists. The minor ...more
Feb 11, 2013 Sue rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical mysteries, cozy mysteries readers s
This is book one in a new series from Marcia Muller and her husband and fellow writer, Bill Pronzini. It's a tale of a detective agency set in 1890s San Fransisco and pulls in all the myriad cultures and precincts present there and then. The agency is comprised of John Quincannon, a former member of the Federal Secret Service, and Sabina Carpenter, a former Pinkerton agent.

Muller and Pronzini appear to have been very scrupulous in searching the background of the time for use in dialogue, descrip
I have admitted before that I sometimes select books based on their cover. That was the case in this one; I was looking for a mystery to get away from my recent fantasy/science fiction kick, and here was one that was clearly different. The protagonists are shown on the cover with clothing going back to at least the turn of the last century. They are a couple – or rather, they are a man and a woman; he is a dashing, tall and fairly broad shouldered young fellow with a nicely trimmed beard, she is ...more
The best thing about this book is the cover, seriously. There they stand, looking all turn-of-the-century steampunk with feisty, spunky expressions on their faces, this male/female team of private detectives working in 1890s San Francisco. I think there's actually enormous potential for these characters, and that is the obvious intention suggested by the promo on the cover identifying this as the FIRST in, I'm sure, a long series as a "Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery."

My main gripe is this: Use
I was really disappointed in this book. I love the Sharon McCone series, and I've read a couple of the Nameless Detective books by Pronzini and liked them as well, so I had high hopes for this one.

It seems that with the current vogue for "period mysteries," there seems to be a huge emphasis on the "period" and not so much on the "mystery." Fairly weak stories, characters who aren't particularly compelling, but loads of details to show how much the author has researched the period. For me, at lea
Hazel West
Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books that I was mildly interested in enough to finish, but it wasn't great either, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It was there to fill idle time, but there was nothing about it that made me sit and read half the book in one sitting either. Apart from that, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be at first.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Undecided. It's not the worst character impressions I have seen; Quincannon is okay, but I don't care for Sabina
Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon run a private detective agency in 1890s San Francisco. She is on the trail of a "dip" or pickpocket working the nearby amusement park and he is hunting down a house burglar targeting wealthy homeowners. Oh yeah, and Sherlock Holmes shows up to help them figure out the cases. First off, I want to say listing a whole bunch of items in a room or location does not constitute descriptive writing. It's just a list. And secondly if you introduce a character who migh ...more
Feb 08, 2013 Grandmama rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Grandmama by: Margaret
Shelves: mj-book
Review of Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzoni’s historical mystery THE BUGHOUSE AFFAIR

This may well be the beginning of a very enjoyable mystery series. Like other successful series the authors have chosen a fascinating city, San Francisco, and a fascinating time period the, 1890’s. The heroine is adept in her deductive powers and does her job well. Her partner in the detective agency is a possible hero in the series but he has lots of flaws. He is much too boastful and confident in his deductive ab
Having enjoyed many of Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone mysteries, I had high hopes for this new series, but was very disappointed. In the author's note at the back, they noted that they used a couple of books, "The Barbary Coast: An informal history of the San Francisco Underworld" by Herbert Asbury and "Champagne Days of San Francisco" by Evelyn Wells. Champagne Days, which was published in 1939, is not regarded by some as an accurate work of history. I would question such items as, on page 24, S ...more
I've been a fan of Pronzini's Nameless Detective for years so I was looking forward to this, the start of a new historical mystery series, written with his wife Marcia Muller and set in 1890's San Francisco. The major characters are ex-Pinkerton Sabina Carpenter and ex-Secret Service John Quincannon who are partnered in a detective agency that specializes in insurance investigations. Refreshingly, Carpenter, a woman ahead of her time, runs the operation. The plot was good with a classic "bring e ...more
I enjoyed it, not for the Sherlock portion (The reason I even picked it up) but because of the story style. I felt a dolt when I reached the end to just realize that the sections were broken up by character; so when the Scot was speaking from his perspective it titled it is, and then hers respectively. Somehow, I missed that all together. I'd read another in the series!
The Bughouse Affair is the first title in a new historical mystery series by award winning authors Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. Set in San Francisco in the 1890s, the novel features two private investigators, Sabina Carpenter, a former Pinkerton detective or “Pink Lady” as the female operatives were called, and John Quincannon, an ex-Secret Service agent. Rich in historical detail, The Bughouse Affair is a lighthearted mystery filled with humorous dialog and banter between the two detectives ...more
This sounded right up my alley. It is an earlier era-San Francisco, it's got a strong female character, and snappy repartee between that female character and her male business partner in a detective agency. I should have liked it, but unfortunately, I didn't and I did not finish this.

Part of the problem was that I listened to this in audiobook format and the two voices narrating both didn't connect for me. Sabina's female narrator came across as monotone and emotionless, which is not how the wor
Liz Clappin
I have read both Muller and Pronzini separately and together before and I must admit by comparison, this was quite a disappointment. I was excited thinking it would be a similar series to Shirley Tallman's Sarah Woolson mysteries, same time period, same setting. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Carpenter and Quincannon are so devoid of any kind of chemistry (which lets face it is the glue that binds most team detective mysteries). I couldn't tell if this was because the chapters were ...more
Sarah Lawrence
Finally I found the first in a series! While I originally picked this up for the female-male detective partnership, west coast setting (not New York for once!), and interest in whether the book would be complete historical fiction or actually feature Sherlock Holmes, I ended up reading it in part for research in my ongoing project.

In that respect, I was glad I did--electricity and technology was a bit more advanced than I expected! I'd completely forgotten to think about telephones, and I hadn'
True confession time, I bought this book mainly because of the two pretty people on the cover. I liked the two main characters, John Quincannon and Sabina Carpenter, who have left their previous careers with the Secret Service and the Pinkerton Detective Agency, respectively, to open up their own detective agency. It was hard to get a sense of whether or not there is any chemistry, of any variety, between the two of them since they spend the lion's share of the book working seemingly separate ca ...more
This is a don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover situation. If I'd seen the book I never would have picked it up because of the insipid cover art. But, it's by a favorite crime novelist, so I thought I'd give it a try. Set in 1890s San Francisco, it's the story of a pair of private investigators that's likely to become a series. A certain fictional character (unnamed to avoid a spoiler) figures in the plot.
Arlene Allen
I think the series has a lot of potential to grow into a solid addition to historical mystery fare. The only thing I didn't like was all of the slang, which made all of the characters sound cheap rather than authentic. I love the descriptions of old San Francisco, and I rather like Sabina. Of Quincannon I have no comment! I will certainly look forward to the next book in the series.
Richard N.
Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini and each among my favorite authors. When they work together, something really exciting comes out.

The Bughouse Affair is entertaining. A strong, thoughtful, female in turn of the century San Francisco, a male partner that's strong and action oriented, and an appearance by Sherlock Holmes. Another character is gaslight era San Francisco.
Fest of a new mystery series co-authored by two veteran and award winning authors. Muller is one of my favorite authors. This is set in 1890s San Francisco and is full of interesting historical details from the time- A really fascinating time in the City's history. The two detectives are a woman and a man who had formed an age spicy together- he is retired from the Secret service and she had been an experienced Pinkerton detective.

I am not sure the book achieved the tone desired by the authors.
D. Havard
Having just finished this I do have a few comments. I enjoyed the characters a lot. Carpenter and Quincannon make a charming daring duo and I look forward to their next adventure. The mystery itself was quite good. It was interesting to read how all the mystery bits came together cohesively without leaving any 'red herrings' dangling about. Kudos to Duo. I also enjoyed the description of the location - San Francisco in the late 1890s. The writers made a few mistakes but on the whole it was quite ...more
This is the first in a new series by Marcia Muller and her husband. Quincannon and Sabina run a detective agency in San Francisco in the late 1800s. The writingnstylemreflectsmthe period, the mystery is good and a character who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes adds to the fun. I look forward to future books in the series .
Disappointing, especially from two such grand masters (both literally and figuratively), and boring. The Sherlock Holmes character, as others have said, did little to add to the novel, and in fact was unnecessarily also distracting, both to the reader and to one of the main characters, John Quincannon. The overabundant use of the slang of the time, even in the title, was distracting (there is a problem when you go looking for a glossary that isn't there), and over-used, as was the extensive desc ...more
Definitely NOT blown away by this series opener (although I understand there have been other books featuring only Quincannon). The whole thing felt a little throwaway with no deep characterization or intricate plot. There was no rich world building - merely adequate. Perhaps I was overly turned off by the cover art depicting Carpenter, a widow aged 31, in this 1880's period with her long hair tumbling about her shoulders. A respectable older woman, especially a married/widow woman would not appe ...more
A fairly good detective novel, with two interesting if a bit shallow protagonists, that's the first of a series. I thought the time period was well incorporated, and that modern ideas were not unduly forced into the different characters. However, I will most likely continue this story because of the somewhat faithful depiction of "Sherlock Holmes" as himself, from the view of people who are unused to him and frustrated by him. It was very funny for me to see Holmes portrayed as a pompous, possib ...more
This delightful historical fiction pairs up two congenial characters as partners in a detective agency. While Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon appear to working on solving separate cases, eventually the investigations become intertwined. Adding to the intrigue is the chance meeting with another famous detective from across the pond - Sherlock Holmes. Quincannon believes the fellow to be an impostor, for surely everyone knows that Holmes is dead. In the audio version, the alternating chapters ...more
Sherry Ramsey
I did enjoy this book, although strangely, I think I might have liked it better in print than I did in audio. I felt an odd disconnect between the characters and the voice narrators--they didn't seem to fit, somehow. Of course, this is a personal preference and YMMV.

I liked the setting and the characters, though--Carpenter more than Quincannon--and the introduction of a reputed Sherlock Holmes. The time period was well-done and the plot moved along at a good pace. The ending left me a bit let do
Cyn Mcdonald
I was not that impressed. The authors seem to have tried to convey the period atmosphere by using contemporary -- but incomprehensible to the modern reader -- slang and idiom. This didn't work for me. I kept getting caught on the unfamiliar words (and wishing there was a glossary) and wondering if people in the 1890s ever thought -- or even knew -- about hardening arteries. Another negative, the character of Sherlock -- I am assuming he is genuine -- isn't true to canon. The writing needed a ser ...more
Robert J.
A nice try but it doesn't quite come together for me. The strongest writing happens in the first parts of the book while the pair of detectives is doing real detective work a la Pinkerton, tracking down dips and burglars. Introducing Holmes, bughouse or not, while entertaining, isn't likely to make the book more serious. They should have either played it as a comedy or done something drastic with the characters, but everybody just saunters (literally) along through the Barbary Coast without a ca ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Jul 26, 2015 11:13AM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Bughouse Affair Review by Ann Pedro 1 3 Jul 01, 2013 10:54AM  
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A native of the Detroit area, Marcia Muller grew up in a house full of books and self-published three copies of her first novel at age twelve, a tale about her dog complete with primitive illustrations. The "reviews" were generally positive.

In the early 1970s, having moved to California, Muller found herself unemployable and began experimenting with mystery novels.

In the ensuing thirty-some years,
More about Marcia Muller...

Other Books in the Series

A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery (4 books)
  • The Spook Lights Affair (Carpenter and Quincannon, #2)
  • The Body Snatchers Affair (Carpenter and Quincannon #3)
  • The Plague of Thieves Affair: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery (Carpenter and Quincannon, #4)
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