Robert J. Bowman. The House of Blue Lights (1987) 210 pp.
Publishers Weekly review: South of Market is San Franciscos sleazy underside, populated by winos and derelicts, drug dealers and an occasional advocate for the poor and dispossessed. Cassandra Thorpe is one of these. A burned-out public defender, she is about to leave for the quiet rewards of a law practice in Santa Rosa when a charming old gent walks into her office with a briefcase full of coded, multicolored graphs and intimations that the owner of a shelter for the homeless is less philanthropic than he appears. Cass is drawn into a vortex of events involving a land-development scheme, two fires (one the possible arson of a local bar and the other the midnight torching of the bars now-homeless owner in a park), a persistent myth about treasure buried under the demolished bars parking lot and the citys organized crime network. Besides the redoubtable and compassionate Cass, who fixes old jukeboxes as a hobby, characters include her weak, opportunistic former husband, her mother (who runs a local diner), a spaced-out blond giant with an urge to violence and the large, ever-varied cast of San Franciscos indigent. This is a complicated and satisfying first effort; readers will look forward to seeing more of Cassandra Thorpe.
Editors note: Alas, Cassandra Thorpe was a one-hit wonder.
Setting: San Francisco (South of Market)