When many books pass through your hands on a daily basis, you often see a particular historical event manifest itself in several books that appear at the same time.
Last week I cataloged a non-fiction book called Driven Out: the Hidden War against the Chinese. Its subject was the “ethnic cleansing” of the Chinese on the West Coast in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is not one of the finer moments in our history, nor is it one that many people are aware of.
On page 256 there was an illustration that appeared in an 1869 issue of Harper’s Weekly depicting the marriage of a Chinese man and an Irish woman. It was a rare “I didn’t know about that!” moment for me. Librarians are vast repositories of miscellaneous facts and fictions, so this doesn’t happen to me too often.
Working my way through the cataloging pile, a few books later I hit upon Victoria Thompson’s new “Gaslight” mystery, Murder in Chinatown. Midwife Sarah Brandt finds herself in Chinatown to deliver a baby to an Irish and Chinese couple and gets involved in the disappearance of a young woman who is distraught over a marriage that has been arranged for her by her Irish aunt and the aunt’s husband, who is a successful Chinese businessman.
While I was reading Steve Hockensmith’s On the Wrong Track a while back, which is basically a humorous tale, there were several uncomfortable moments involving the abusive treatment of a Chinese man who is a passenger on the train that carries the Amlingmeyer brothers west in their new occupation as railroad detectives.
Three mysteries I have read in the past few months have incorporated the misappropriation of works of art by the Nazis during World War II into their plots: Messenger of Truth, a Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear, Dust, a Richard Jury mystery by Martha Grimes, and The Chrysalis, a stand-alone suspenseful novel by Heather Terrell.
Maybe there is something to astrology after all and this phenomenon has something to do with the alignment of the planets. Perhaps a consultation with Sonia Samarth, astrologist/detective would be helpful.