Looking for a better life, Nora Simms sails from the East Coast to gold rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow “women of ill fame,” Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. Even her rise to the top of her profession and a move to the fashionable part of town don’t shelter her from the danger, and she must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.
San Francisco is the setting of Erika Mailman’s exciting historical mystery WOMAN OF ILL FAME, which takes place during the madness of the California Gold Rush. The story is told through the eyes of a young prostitute named Nora who has just arrived from Boston seeking her own fortune. Nora becomes wrapped up in a gruesome murder mystery when the bodies of prostitutes are found around the city with their throats slashed, and all the victims have a connection to Nora.
I couldn’t help but love Nora from the very beginning. She was strong, resourceful, clever, and unapologetic of her lot in life. She was also rather forward-thinking when it came to sex and protecting herself from the dangers of her profession. Nora’s journey was an eye-opening experience for me. From her tiny crib in the “cowyard” to an elegant room in the best parlor house in the city, Nora gave readers a vivid picture of daily life for “soiled doves” of the time.
WOMAN OF ILL FAME was a well-researched and engaging novel that presents San Francisco’s Gold Rush Era with richness and realism. Nora is an unforgettable heroine who reminds readers that women of ill fame were an integral part of the time. Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction and mystery alike!
Rating: 4 Stars
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the book tour company in exchange for an honest review.
Praise for Woman of Ill Fame:
“I LOVED Woman of Ill Fame! Nora Simms is hilarious, heartbreaking, tough, perceptive…and one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever met between the pages of a book. Wonderful story, great setting and really good writing made this one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!” -Diana Gabaldon, internationally-bestselling author of the Outlander series
“The whodunit aspect makes Woman of Ill Fame a page-turner, and Mailman manages to keep the reader guessing. Yet it’s the depiction of early San Francisco that propels this thriller above its genre, in the manner of historical fiction such as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.” -Kemble Scott, San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Mailman serves up vivid description, sparkling prose and a Gold Rush prostitute as scrappy as Scarlett O’Hara.” -Kathleen Grant Gelb, Oakland Tribune
About the Author:
Erika Mailman is the author of The Witch’s Trinity, a Bram Stoker finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and Woman of Ill Fame, a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. While writing The Witch’s Trinity, she learned she was the descendant of a woman accused twice of witchcraft in the decades predating Salem.