Woman of Ill Fame

Erika Mailman

This novel shatters what romantic illusions might remain about the Gold Rush days. Young Nora Simms arrives on a San Francisco wharf in the fall of 1849 and things immediately go bad. Not only does a scruffy weasel of a cabin boy steal her trunk, she also discovers that, while there’s money to be made on her back, the cost of doing business is quite a bit higher than she expected. Then there’s the dead prostitute, her throat slit wide open. As Nora tracks—and tries to avoid becoming a victim of—a serial murderer of “soiled doves,” she also discovers that she’s a whore with a moral center, compassion and clarity of purpose. Erika Mailman has created a true, trustworthy and likable voice in a gritty place, with a realistic portrayal of human behavior that isn’t for Victorian sensibilities.