Rough Trade

Katrina Carrasco (The Best Bad Things) blends deeply researched historical fiction with riveting queer adventure in Rough Trade, the spectacular second installment of her episodic crime series about the undeniably charming antihero Alma Rosales.

It's the summer of 1888, and Alma's crew is working the Tacoma docks of Washington Territory. Their cover story is that they're stevedores, but smuggling opium is their real trade.

In the months that follow a drug bust on their ship, several new players wander onto Alma's docks and threaten the tidy little business she runs under the protective care of seductive socialite Delphine Beaumond. Among those is Bess Spencer, Alma's former partner at the Pinkerton Women's Bureau of investigators, from a lifetime ago. But the real fuse lights when dead bodies start turning up under suspicious circumstances, and with signs of injection. Alma risks a swarming police presence that could irreversibly upset the life she's only recently built for herself in Washington, after escaping tragedy elsewhere.

Carrasco writes with a brisk pace and cheeky playfulness that offset the rugged terrain and dicey stakes. Alma carries a queer and irresistible swagger as she shapeshifts into her public persona, Jack Camp, the roughest man in town. And her sexual tension with both Bess and Delphine gin up a satisfying heat. So much of the fun in this novel pivots on the divide between public and private presentations, highlighting how simple it becomes to defy the law when one's gender and sexuality are already at odds with it.

Rough Trade is an addictive treat sure to please fans of Sarah Waters and HBO's Our Flag Means Death. --Dave Wheeler, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

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