A Dangerous Business: Whodunit’s light touch at odds with weightier theme of women’s struggles

Sex-worker sleuths stumble incredibly across clues and corpses in Jane Smiley’s enjoyable but underwhelming murder mystery

Jane Smiley: her latest novel, A Dangerous Business doesn’t really compare to the author’s best work like the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres. Picture: Getty Images

Jane Smiley’s 16th novel, A Dangerous Business, is a historical whodunnit set during the 1850s in the town of Monterey on California’s Central Coast.

Eliza Ripple crossed the continent from Kalamazoo in southern Michigan as a newlywed 18-year-old two years before the story begins. Soon she discovered that her husband was not the upright citizen who had convinced her strict religious parents that he would make a suitable life partner for their only child.

Instead, ...