FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book. These are my honest thoughts.
This book was pretty wonderful. There were buckets of things to adore about it and only a couple of reasons why I docked a single star.
Mrs. Woodhouse has improved so much in her writing. I’m growing fonder and fonder of her stories as time goes on, and this book is a prime example of why. It’s a time-slip story that features a murder mystery that revolved around the discovery of a ship buried beneath the streets of San Francisco, California. While it might not all be factual (I hope the murders didn’t actually happen!), I was intrigued to learn that there really were ships that were sunk and used as landfill to expand the growing city of San Francisco during and directly after that California Gold Rush. So neat! It was great to see Mrs. Woodhouse expanding her abilities by dipping into the time-slip genre. She’s long been growing as a historical author, but now she’s added the dual-timeline style to her repertoire.
The mystery itself was pretty decent. I was intrigued through most of the book about what all would be discovered along the way. The majority of the clues were well placed and used to the maximum amount of suspense. The one that fell flat and popped the balloon of tension for me was the journal that never once showed up in the historical setting. If it had been seen simply sitting on the person’s bed or side table or tucked into a bag (let alone actually used by the owner), it would have been easier to believe that the person in question was the author. As it was, though, this person seemed much too busy to take the time out to sit down and journal. This person was an active sort with a time-consuming and physically and mentally taxing job, a significant other they spent their extra time with, and multiple responsibilities that would have taken up whatever time was left in the day. I found it completely impossible to believe that this person, who never picked up a pencil that I saw, would take the time to journal quite extensively about their adventures. When did that happen??? However, I did enjoy the sweet romance growth that took place while the journal was read in the present-day thread.
The setting of San Francisco only really came alive to me around the Golden Gate Bridge and the waters beneath it. I wish more of the city would have been explored, but what was showcased was superbly written. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the undersea portions of the book. The way Mrs. Woodhouse detailed the diving experiences across the two different eras was wonderful. It set the scene so well and added richness, depth, and tension to those portions of the story. I would have thought she’d actually been diving before from the descriptions, but in the author’s note at the end, she admitted she’s never been diving (and I can’t blame her there; it’s not my thing either). I love it when authors research details so extensively and weave that research in so fluidly that it feels natural to the story yet adds incredible atmosphere so that it feels like they’ve been there so many times themselves that they’re able to make it come to life so seamlessly for the reader. For this aspect of this story, I applaud Mrs. Woodhouse.
The bad guy was easy to figure out from an early chapter. I hope future books will see them better disguised. This only means there is more room to grow, but it did weigh in to my decision to dock a star since this did remove a lot of the present-day mystery for me along the way.
Characterization was really good in this one, other than that journal issue. Each of the leads (two in each time period) felt distinct from one another. I tasted Margo’s fear, quivered with Kayla’s anxiety, hoped right along with Luke, and was inspired by Steven’s integrity. These were all characters I could root for, and I did all the way to the final page.
I hope Mrs. Woodhouse has another book coming in the Doors to the Past series, because I enjoyed this one and look forward to another well-researched novel to sink my teeth into.