Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pilfered Promises

It's always fascinating to read historical fiction and see how we have advanced technology-wise. In M. Louisa Locke's Pilfered Promises, telephones and elevators are new to the country in the 1880s. Annie Dawson and her lawyer husband Nate are asked to investigate systematic theft in the Silver Strike Bazaar, a large department store in San Francisco.

Annie, a trained accountant, leaps at the chance to be involved. Nate is not so sure. The inner workings of the Silver Strike Bazaar are nothing like today's stores. Cash girls are assigned to take the money from clerks and run it upstairs to the cashiers, then bring a paid receipt back. This system seems fraught with peril. It's easy to see how some money could go missing.

The owner, Mr. Livingston, is concerned about the money losses, but there also seems to be merchandise loss - too much just to be  credited to shoplifting. In fact some larger pieces and furs are among the missing.

He invites Annie to review the books and speak with various department managers to get a feel for
the operation. She discovers the merchandise losses have been taking place in the last four months.

The store is an interesting place overall. Ready made garments are actually made on site; custom made garments are designed by Mrs. Fournier under the supervision of Madame Villeneuve, the French wife of Livingston's partner, and also made on site. Everything from children's underwear to ladies ball gowns. It's an amazing place.

While Annie tours the receiving department, she notices how disorganized and chaotic is it with wagon loads of merchandise arriving and being unloaded at the same time. As she digs deeper, she discovers the pattern.

When Mrs. Fournier is found dead on the stairwell, Annie and Nate try to make the connection to the missing merchandise, especially when they learn about Mrs. Fournier's past.

The solution to the murder is bittersweet, but Annie and Nate manage to solve the missing merchandise dilemma. Pilfered Promises is an fascinating glimpse into the past.

For a review of Book 1 in the series, Maids of Misfortune, click here

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