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GREEN - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

A Dangerous Business
A novel
By (author): Jane Smiley
Jane Smiley





Product Form:



General Trade
Dec 06, 2022
$37.99 CAD


9.54in x 6.56 x 0.87 in | 1.06 lb

Page Count:

224 pages
Alfred A. Knopf
FICTION / Historical / General
From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author of A Thousand Acres: a mystery set in 1850s Gold Rush California, as two young prostitutes—best friends Eliza and Jean—follow a trail of missing girls.

Monterey, 1851. Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious.

Eliza and Jean are determined not just to survive, but to find their way in a lawless town on the fringes of the Wild West—a bewitching combination of beauty and danger—as what will become the Civil War looms on the horizon. As Mrs. Parks says, “Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…”

Story Locale: Monterey, California in the 1850s

    MOMENTUM: Jane Smiley’s previous novel, Perestroika in Paris, was an instant national best seller. The book charmed audiences during a COVID winter and was praised for its light touch and wholesome fun. We’ve netted more than 60k copies across formats, with the paperback poised to launch this November.

    ATMOSPHERE: A Dangerous Business is a whimsical mystery, a portrait of two headstrong friends that also manages to show us the underbelly of a distinctive time and place—a combination that worked beautifully in Perestroika.

    HEROINE: Eliza Ripple is a fun and feisty heroine—widow turned prostitute, unlikely amateur detective, naïf turned woman of the world. She is a product of the era, straitened by circumstances, but also a self-starter.

    SETTING: Monterey in the 1850s is a wonderful setting for Smiley, full of vivid landscapes and glimpses into a crucial turning point in American history. 

    GENRE: Not since Duplicate Keys in 1984 has Smiley dipped a toe into the mystery form. We know her readers will follow this ever-versatile writer wherever she goes. 

JANE SMILEY is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the Last Hundred Years Trilogy: Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age. She is the author as well of several works of nonfiction and books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.

Author Residence: Carmel Valley, CA

Author Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Marketing: Early Reader Review Campaign

Influencer Outreach and Social Promotion

Book Club Outreach

Author Backlist Promotions

Digital ARC Distribution

Library Marketing Campaign

Academic Marketing Campaign

Publicity: National Media Appearances, including NPR

Newspaper and Magazine Features

National Review Attention

Most Anticipated Book Lists 

Top Regional NPR interviews

Women’s Magazine Coverage

Mystery Media Coverage

Author Events

“Pulitzer-winning Smiley’s evocative sense of place and nuanced exploration of women’s roles in nineteenth-century American life nicely complement the portrait of Eliza and her determined effort to forge her own path . . . Highly recommended.”
—Christine Tran, Booklist (starred)

“A remarkable story of the California gold rush and a pair of sex worker sleuths . . . The vivid historical details and vibrant characters bring Smiley’s setting to glorious life. This seductive entertainment is not to be missed.”
Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed)

“Jane Smiley has a book coming out later this year that is superb, now you know.”
—Rumaan Alam, via Twitter

“The forthcoming Jane Smiley novel, A Dangerous Business, is so outstanding. Her sentences are sublime.”
—Roxane Gay, via Twitter

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