Erika Mailman. Woman of Ill Fame (2006) 255 pp. [tpo]
Nora Simms, a beautiful, young prostitute from Boston, arrives in wide-open San Francisco in 1849, intent on starting a new life. Although she is a kind, sympathetic person, this is no hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold story. The only gold Nora is interested in is what she can get out of the miners’ pants in exchange for her considerable talents. But, before she even gets off the boat, she is victimized by a galley boy who steals the trunk containing all of her clothes and the stash of gold she had earned on the voyage. Then several of her fellow “women of ill fame” fall prey to a serial killer. When Nora realizes that all of the murdered girls were in possession of an article of clothing from her stolen trunk—and that the police have very little interest in investigating—she knows that the killer must be someone close to her and that it will be up to her to find him before she, herself, ends up dead.