For holiday gift-giving or reading, I’ve got two non-traditional mysteries to recommend: One is genre-bending; the other features a detective who specializes in underwater investigations.
Jane Smiley has been a shape-shifter all throughout her long career: Her fiction has spanned domestic dramas like her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres; to her academic satire, Moo; to speculative Norse history in The Greenlanders. Her latest novel is a mash-up of a Western, a serial killer mystery and a feminist erotic romp.
A Dangerous Business is set in Monterey, during the Gold Rush era. Heroine Eliza Ripple is a young widow whose brutish husband was killed in a bar fight. Eliza shed no tears; in fact, she’s happy earning her living in a local bordello. Not since Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke hosted Marshal Dillon, Chester and Doc every night at the Longbranch Saloon has life in a bawdy house seemed so amiable.