Portia of the Pacific Mysteries Presents:

You think the Trump Era is difficult for women, minorities, and immigrants?

Welcome to 1884 San Francisco.

First Historical Mystery in New Series

Chinawoman’s Chance

best historical mystery

Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq.

Clara Shortridge Foltz faces a patriarchal nemesis in 1884 San Francisco. When a white prostitute is murdered and flayed down to a skeleton, Clara is hired by the Six Companies of Chinatown to defend the sixteen males who are swept-up by the Chinatown Squad. This ragtag and corrupt group of sheriffs work for the mayor, Washington Bartlett. The mayor uses the nation’s anti-Chinese sentiment in his quest to win the race for Governor of California.

Foltz, the first woman admitted to the California Bar, must learn fast to become a detective in order to prove that her client, journalist George Kwong, is not the killer, but was set-up by the mayor to take the fall. Along with Ah Toy, her trusted translator and best friend, she is instructed by the head of detectives, Captain Isaiah Lees. Lees becomes enamored with Clara, who is having personal problems with sexual commitment, due to her first marriage with Jeremiah Foltz. He was a Union vet who deserted Clara and their five children for a younger woman.

Captain Lees has personal problems of his own, as he has devoted all his time fighting the corrupt politicians and the Chinatown Squad for twenty years, and has not even made time for female relations. Theirs is a very special kind of romance.

Clara brings a national spotlight to bear on her case, as thousands of women flock to the City by the Bay to support her effort to win against these patriarchal forces. The Chinese are also oppressed, and Clara and Ah Toy become embroiled in a deadly came of cat-and-mouse to trap the real killer and save George Kwong.

As a special bonus, you can read the first chapter in the second mystery of the series, The Spiritualist Murders, in which Clara and Ah Toy must find out why wives are under the spell of a magnetic and hypnotically attractive young spiritualist. These women are being awakened sexually by him and are then murdering their husbands to escape their lives of Victorian and male-dominated oppression.

CHINAWOMAN’S CHANCE, and all of the mysteries in this series, will be under 55,000 words long. This is done so that the works can be affordable and readable for our patrons. This mystery may be shorter, but it still packs a punch, and Clara Foltz must perform some daring deeds to find the killer before her client hangs from a rope on Russian Hill. Can you solve this mystery before she does? Experience the reality of 1884 San Francisco, when women were working for their civil rights, and some, like Foltz, were trying to protect the rights of underclass citizens. Clara will be arguing to you, in this fast-paced, courtroom drama and investigative, suspenseful mystery. It’s her first case, and she has a lot of help. Captain of Detectives, Isaiah Lees, and his partner Dutch Vanderheiden show Clara the techniques of sleuthing at the street level in Chinatown. And, her personal translator and best friend, Ah Toy, a successful Madame who worked her way out of Chinatown and into the mainstream, will help her to find out who the killer is.

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Click on the cover to buy the paperback edition.

James Musgrave’s new book will be self-published. This novel is a little over 50K words, so it can be, as Edgar Allan Poe says, “read in one sitting.”

James Musgrave has won First Place in the Chanticleer International Book Awards in the Historical Mystery Category, 2013. All of the mysteries in his Detective Pat O’Malley series are promoted as ‘featured titles’ in the American Library Association’s Self-E Program for independent authors.

Why I Write Historical Mysteries

“I write historical mysteries because, in some ways, the stark differences were clearer, so when my characters act against the evil policies, they stand out better than they do in today’s mixed-up, unfocused, and “fake news” press. Even though newspapers and magazines were the only media back then, they were still read and digested, and the people and their vocabularies, for the most part, were far superior to what we have today. People thought long and hard about issues, crawled deep inside them, and saw the real causes and effects of laws and legislation.”  James Musgrave, March, 2018.

Reviewed By Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite

Chinawoman’s Chance (Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries) by Jim Musgrave takes us back to the bustling and somewhat lawless society of San Francisco in 1884. The California Gold Rush and the railways have made San Francisco a place of wealth and power, but for certain sections of society, nothing has really changed. For women and for the Chinese immigrants brought to America by the railway bosses to help build the railways, life is hard. Neither group has any real rights in this America of the 1880s. Championing the cause for women and the oppressed is the larger than life self-trained barrister, Clara Shortridge Foltz Esq. When a young ex-prostitute is murdered, flayed and eviscerated in the Chinatown district of the city, suspicion immediately falls on the Chinese Tongs that make up the ghetto that is Chinatown. Captain Isaiah Lees and his sergeant must determine who is responsible and cut off any possibility of retaliatory action against the Chinese immigrants. Competing against the rival and corrupt Sheriff’s Department plus the city’s mayor, Lees has his job cut out for him.

As a big fan of historical novels in general and historical mystery stories in particular, I found Jim Musgrave’s Chinawoman’s Chance (Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries) to be absolutely superb. As the first in a series of books based around the wonderful character of Clara Shortridge Foltz Esq., the author has created a marketable and believable set of characters on which to build his series. Clara is clearly the star of the story, with her forthrightness and her willingness to take on the patriarchal society at their own game. In the age of the suffragettes, Musgrave’s character is the perfect portrayal of the women who led the campaign for women’s rights all around the world. Her freedom and her owning of her own sexuality was rare among woman of the time. It was fascinating to look at the reactions of the politicians to the perceived growing threat of the “yellow menace”, as they termed it, with their heathen religions and beliefs, comparing that to today’s response with respect to Hispanic and Muslim immigration. The “Exclusion Act” and the “Muslim Ban” – not all that different, perhaps? This book appealed to me on many levels, but most importantly of all, it was a darn good read and an excellent mystery.

Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Chinawoman’s Chance: Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries, Volume 1 is an historical sleuth mystery written by Jim Musgrave. It was 1884, and San Francisco, even more than the rest of the country, was embroiled in a harsh and racist reaction to the recent flow of Chinese immigrants to the United States. The Chinese themselves were caught between the machinations of the ruling Manchu in their home country and Leland Stanford and the other railroad barons, who jointly conspired to keep the immigrants impoverished and bound to unfair contracts. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 made the unfair treatment of those new immigrants into law.

The Captain of Detectives for the First District of the San Francisco Police Department, Isaiah Lees, had a new case to solve. The body of a young white woman had been found in a small bungalow in Chinatown. The killer had flayed every bit of flesh and organs from her body. Mary McCarthy was an orphan, who had been a streetwalker until she had become a student at the Methodist Mission for Wayward Women. She had recently left the mission, however, and had been seen with George Kwong, son of one of the wealthy Chinese men who were leaders of the Six Companies. George and his father, Andrew Kwong, ran The Oriental, a newspaper with backing from the Methodist Church in San Francisco. A witness reported that George Kwong claimed to have taken a picture of Mary’s body. Now he was the city’s prime suspect for the murder, but George had been in love with Mary and would never have dreamed of hurting her.

Jim Musgrave’s historical murder mystery is a fascinating look at San Francisco in the late nineteenth century. His sleuthing partners, Clara Foltz and Captain Isaiah Lees, are real historical persons, and following the two as they work together in a sometimes uneasy alliance is grand entertainment. A sensitive reader won’t be able to help considering the racism that is at the heart of this story and comparing it with the current attitude toward immigrants and women in the country today. I found myself saddened to think that in many ways we’ve not gone very much farther in our treatment of others, in the disregard of equal rights and fear of diversity. Musgrave’s story is marvelous! He gives the reader a wide range of possible suspects to consider and makes San Francisco of 1884 come to life. I especially loved how he brought together the strong and capable characters of Captain Lees, Clara Foltz, Detective Sergeant Eduard Vanderheiden and Ah Toy. They are a grand team. I was quite pleased to find that Musgrave has written a second book in the series, The Spiritualist Murders, and am looking forward to reading it. Chinawoman’s Chance: Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries, Volume 1 is most highly recommended.

Narrator Anne James Agrees to do Portia of the Pacific Audiobooks

The voice of Clara Shortridge Foltz, Ah Toy, and all the other lovable characters in the Portia of the Pacific series of mysteries will be Ms. Anne James.  Anne has narrated many novels, and her pleasing voice captures all the special nuances and inflections needed in a dramatic reading.  EMRE Publishing is enthusiastic about having her as the unique narrator for this great new series.

Listen to a sample from the audiobook’s first chapter.  (.mp3, .ogg, .wav)


New Title and Subject Matter for Second Historical Mystery Announced

Author Musgrave also has a title for his second mystery in the series, set in 1886 San Francisco: THE SPIRITUALIST MURDERS. He will use a similar narrative framework that was featured in the 1950 classic by Akira Kurosawa, RASHOMON.

Clara Foltz, Esq. will get the story from a young woman who attends a spiritualist meeting in The Supreme Grand Lodge. The mixed-race Spiritualist, Dr. Paschal Beverly Randolph, who advised Mary and Abraham Lincoln in matters of the spirit and abolitionist thought, will figure prominently in the mystery. He’s quite a character, and he founded the first “sex-spiritualism” group of the Rosicrucian order in the United States.

The author, having just experienced an excruciating two years of seeing his wife suffer memory loss, day by day, suddenly became filled with the need to go in the opposite direction. As a result of his creative inspiration, the second mystery in the Portia of the Pacific series will feature a young woman who can remember her entire life, every moment of it, and each day becomes a living picture for her to re-live. The focus in this book will be a series of murders committed by wives who once were “treated” by a mysterious doctor who had studied under the tutelage of Dr. Pascal Beverly Randolph, the first person to establish the Rosicrucian Order in the United States.

Clara will use this woman’s remarkable memory to track down the man who is conditioning these women to kill their husbands. He does this by having sex with them in order to infuse them with a destructive power that leads to the execution of their mates. I am also using the Women’s Rights Movement and the practice of Spiritualism as a centerpiece of this mystery. Women, in fact, in the 1800s, were only allowed to speak together in these groups of mystical seances and spiritual “speaking in tongues” and so they cleverly began to also speak about civil rights and more political issues.

Pre-orders for the eBook are up on Amazon now ($3.99).  Email your pre-order confirmation receipt*, and you’ll receive a free copy of Forevermore, the award-winning first mystery in the Detective Pat O’Malley Historical Mystery series.

*You can print the screen that shows your pre-order receipt on Amazon by doing the following:  Hit alt prtscn on your keyboard.  In the text portion of your email, hit Ctrl v.  This will paste your printed screenshot into the email.

In addition, those who pre-order will also receive a link to register in the EMRE Publishing ePub3 Mobile App in order to get a free copy of the “embellished version” of Forevermore.  Just put the coupon code you’ll get into the book’s coupon price reduction when you check-out, and your eBook will be automatically opened onto your desktop inside the Embellisher eReader.  This version of the mystery is in the new ePub3 formatting, and includes an audio version read by Shandon Loring (the voice of Detective Pat O’Malley), and related videos that explain the characters, setting and historical contexts in entertaining ways.  There are also links to video games that can be played online which relate to the setting and Victorian themes of the novel.  Finally, you’ll get to “interact” with the plot to get additional options that are not available in the original copy of the mystery.  All in all, this is a new way to “experience” a novel, and we hope you’ll tell us what you think.

Listen to the Author on the Air with Madame Jennifer Perry

Want to Read the First Series of Mysteries from This Author?

Buy the paperback version for $19.95.





Read the Color-Me-a-Mystery Inspired by the Bhagwan Rashneesh Cult in Oregon

Jim Musgrave’s SERENE is a mystery that includes adult coloring images.

This is the novel that establishes Dr. Rachel Edelstein as a sleuth with a super-power. Raised on an ashram in California, she is molested by Guru Bhagwan Sharma, but he pays for her college education after her parents are found dead inside a lab working on a secret experiment called “Serene.”

Learn what readers are saying about SERENE.

If you’ve watched the Netflix Original documentary, Wild, Wild Country, then you’ll really enjoy reading (and coloring in) SERENE.


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