This book begins with a shooting that leaves one woman dead in a saloon on the outskirts of town and her friend left to figure out what happened. As we flashback to the weeks leading up to the shooting, we learn that an unbearable heat and a smallpox epidemic has been ravaging San Francisco in 1876 and put everyone on edge. It’s enough to send someone into a rage, enough to kill someone. In the wake of her friend’s murder, Blanche tries to figure out who is responsible. She is sure her lover, Arthur, is to blame, but it could be any number of people she encounters in her bohemian lifestyle.
Emma Donoghue’s novel is a work of historical fiction, all the characters inspired by real people who roamed the streets of San Francisco. It was a time when brothels were out in the open and it was illegal for women to wear pants. It was fun to drop into the world of such eccentric characters, the. Kind who are rarely shown in period pieces but who were very much real.