“Dangerous Business” by Jane Smiley (Alfred A. Knopp)
After a fall publication season filled with big books by John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, and Barbara Kingsolver, to name just a few, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley (“A Thousand Acres”) Reading this tense story is exhilarating.
Set in Monterey, California, about ten years before the Civil War, the title’s dangerous business is prostitution. Working girls Eliza and Jean do business in her two brothels in a coastal town. one for men and one for women. When the body of a young woman is discovered, he sets out to solve a murder case by applying what he has learned from reading Edgar Allan Poe’s mysteries.
As they try to piece together clues, the client begins to look more and more suspicious even though business is proceeding as normal. Giving a quote, he tells Eliza:
Indeed, as the plot unfolds, it’s worth noting that people fled in the 1850s. has not gone unnoticed and his killer is on the run. With no group searching for who killed the missing girl, Eliza and Jean take their time chasing down leads, going on long walks and horseback rides to investigate the crime scene and look for possible suspects. To do.
The dialogue between the two young women is at the heart of the story. You mature into a world that values yourself only as a potential mother or housekeeper, and find purpose and confidence as you pursue justice. What I learned was how fast death can come…more rarely, so what was a little more scary was the kind of true friendship she had with Gene.
At 208 pages, the novel’s pace is fast. Enough interesting characters walk in and out of Eliza’s brothel bedroom to warrant a series of novels. If there’s such a thing as “risky business”, that’s certainly a great story.