Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Secret Agent Ma’am

Fans of The Diviners and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries will love The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, about a 1907 Los Angeles socialite who wants to solve murders.

Secret Agent Ma’am

BOOK REPORT for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

Cover Story: Big Hat
BFF Charm: Single White Female
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Oh Biscuits!
Bonus Factors: Sweet Ride, Fashion
Relationship Status: You Fill My Dance Card

Cover Story: Big Hat

Since this is a Grownup Book, I’m going to give the Big Hat a pass here (although it does kind of look like a romance novel, which is misleading). I love the Art Nouveau feel of it with the typesetting and the purple wallpaper-like motif, but I’m not sure I would pick it up off the shelf if I’d seen it in a bookstore.

The Deal:

Nineteen-year-old Anna Blanc is a socialite living in 1907 Los Angeles, trapped under her father’s watchful eye and longing for a little more excitement in her life. When she encounters a murder that seems to go uninvestigated by the LAPD, her interest is piqued, and through a series of semi-fortuitous events, she manages to get a job with the police as a matron. Of course, she has to buy off her chaperone, and pretend to be a married woman, and no one at the station takes her the least bit seriously, oh, and if her father found out he would disown her, but those mere details won’t stop Anna.

What’s a girl to do, though? She can’t unsee what she’s seen, and once she gets an idea into her head, she can’t let it go. The Secret Life of Anna Blanc follows Anna through her pursuit of her romantic notion of being a lady detective, engagements to at least two men, and countless scandals.

BFF Charm: Single White Female

Anna is too self-centered to be a best friend, but I want to know what it’s like to be that self-confident—and possessed of an innate ability to get out of any scrape. (Also, the clothes. THE CLOTHES!) Despite her carefree attitude, though, she’s smart and dogged, ultimately loyal to her friends, and genuinely wants justice.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Anna has a lot of suitors, but there’s one in particular who really revs her engine. Reading about her coming to terms with her feelings for him (including physical ones) is hilarious, and his tolerance for her high jinks is impressive.

Talky Talk: Oh Biscuits!

Jennifer Kincheloe absolutely nails Anna’s voice—a voice that is exactly what you’d expect from a self-centered, flighty socialite with a nagging conscience and a knack for falling into scandals. Anna is eminently quotable, definitely incorrigible, and completely charming. You’ll love her even when she’s busy being an inspiration to herself or passing judgment on the ladies in brothels who are getting murdered, one by one. Anna is at once a product of her time and environment, yet also ahead of the game in several key ways.

Like Libba Bray’s The Diviners series, you’ll be completely immersed in Anna’s world, yet never bogged down by the details and language. The amount of research that Kincheloe must have done to build this world is impressive, but it goes down as light and fluffy as cotton candy.

The single criticism I have of the book is that the mystery itself had a few weak points, but I didn't feel like they detracted much from my overall enjoyment of the book. It's still a fast-paced, fun ride through Los Angeles (before the smog descended).

Bonus Factor: Sweet Ride

Anna drives a canary yellow Rolls Royce convertible. (The one pictured is a 1913, but it was as close as I could find.) WANT.

Bonus Factor: Fashion

The descriptions of the fashion in this book make me want to toss out my beloved lounge pants (Official Work Uniform Of Bloggers Everywhere) and swan around in silk nightgowns, beaded evening gowns that require a corset, and elegant gloves. Anna’s got a hankering for French fashion and the finer things in life…and now I do, too.

Casting Call:

Emma Stone as Anna Blanc

I could totally see Emma carrying off Anna’s deceptively fluffy persona with her wit and sly humor.

The Arrow Collar Man as Joe Singer

You’ll get it when you read the book. And you will read the book, won’t you?

Relationship Status: You Fill My Dance Card

Book, I went into our date only knowing you were a historical mystery with a female protagonist, but you swept me off my feet with your dry witticisms and blithe inner monologue. Now I just want to write your name as every entry in my dance card, so I can live in your world a little longer. And I hear there will be a sequel…

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Seventh Street Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  The Secret Life of Anna Blanc is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.