A Dangerous Business
Set in Monterey in 1851, A Dangerous Business is the story of young Eliza Ripple, who travels to California with her husband only to feel relieved to escape a bad marriage when he’s killed in a gun fight. Left alone to support herself, Eliza begins working in a brothel for a woman named Mrs. Parks. Eliza’s life mostly improves: her customers are less objectionable than her husband, Mrs. Parks tries to protect her girls from ill or rough patrons, and Eliza is financially independent. Then, young working girls’ bodies start turning up in the hills around Monterey, and the local law takes little interest. Shocked and determined, Eliza and her friend Jean try to solve the murders while seeing each customer in a new, more dangerous light.
Eliza is a fairly unworldly character with no experience solving murders, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley brilliantly conveys her limited point of view. Still, the story never develops a sense of rising tension as Eliza and Jean amble along, and the setting seems somewhat unrealistic. For example, Eliza has mostly polite, healthy customers and reliable birth control in a Gold Rush seaport town. For these reasons, A Dangerous Business may not be Smiley’s strongest work.
|Page Count||224 pages|
|Publisher||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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