From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author of A Thousand Acres: a rollicking murder mystery set in Gold Rush California, as two young prostitutes follow a trail of missing girls.
Monterey, 1851. Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious.
Eliza and Jean are determined not just to survive, but to find their way in a lawless town on the fringes of the Wild West—a bewitching combination of beauty and danger—as what will become the Civil War looms on the horizon.
As Mrs. Parks says, “Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise …”
Eliza Ripple was getting old for a young lady of marriageable age. She was nearly 18 and her parents feared she would not get married so they arranged for her to marry a man nearly twice her age and she was gone from the household. Her husband worked in the lumber industry in Kalamazoo, Mi. The lumber industry was very dangerous and he was killed within two years of her marriage. She was not unhappy about this because he had been physically abusive and very ridged with her. At last, she was free!
She moved to Monterey, California, and with little skills was hired as a lady of the evening. Her fee was a dollar per trick and this provided her funds for room and the ability to buy food. Being a hooker in Monterey in the mid-1800s was a risky business and the madam kept a man at the house. Carlos kept his eye on all of the girls and threw out the men who were abusive.
Monterey was the leading seaport at that time. The entrance through the Golden Gate in San Francisco was not developed and the sailors preferred the port of Monterey. All is going fairly well but suddenly Eliza and her friend find a body in one of the arroyos with a creek leading to the ocean. The sheriff of Monterey seems to care less for the plight of the murdered young woman. As time goes on more bodies of young women are found in the area.
Jane Smiley develops a very sympathetic character in Eliza and her companion. The small port of Monterey has five or six brothels and law enforcement does not even pursue the killings. The young prostitutes are not worth investigating. Reading this book, I immediately commiserated with the plight of the girls. I enjoyed the interplay between the characters and the overall result of the plot. Even the horses and other animals were developed into key elements of the story. A fun and entertaining tale! 4.5 stars – CE Williams
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Literary Fiction, Historical Literary Fiction, Historical Mysteries
- ISBN-10 : 0525520333
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525520337
Print Length: 224 pages
Publication Date: December 6, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: A Dangerous Business [Amazon]
The Author: Jane Smiley (born September 26, 1949) is an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres (1991). Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Community School and from John Burroughs School. She obtained a BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), then earned an MA (1975), MFA (1976), and PhD (1978) from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a Professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
©2022 CE Williams – V Williams