The Golden Gate

Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9781250903600. $28. M
DEBUT In 1930, seven-year-old Iris Stafford died in the Claremont Hotel, which she is now said to haunt. In 1931, Al Sullivan’s Mexican father was “repatriated” to Mexico after the stock market crash, allegedly to free up jobs for Americans. By 1944, Iris’s sister Izzy and her two Bainbridge cousins have grown into beauties, and Al has taken his mother’s last name and risen to be a homicide detective with the Berkeley Police Department. They all come together at the Claremont when a presidential candidate is killed, and witnesses identify a woman who resembles one of the three Bainbridge cousins. The D.A. warns Mrs. Genevieve Bainbridge that he can charge all three of her granddaughters as co-conspirators if she doesn’t identify the killer. But Al has his doubts. Everyone has suggestions for his case, including Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, who purportedly was involved with the murder victim. Al is warned of Communists, Japanese spies, and the Chinese, but, as the son of a Mexican father and an Okie mother, he has himself experienced prejudice and is determined to find the truth.
VERDICT The historical mystery debut by Yale Law School professor Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) is a successful, compelling mash-up of California history, ghost story, family tale, and social commentary.
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