cover image Rough Trade

Rough Trade

Katrina Carrasco. MCD, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-27268-5

Carrasco’s outstanding sequel to The Best Bad Things delivers even more grit, queerness, and 19th-century swashbuckling than its predecessor. High society smuggler Delphine Beaumond has shifted her opium trade operations from Port Townsend to the emerging city of Tacoma, Wash., in 1888. Her accomplice and lover, Alma Rosales—who now lives mostly as her male alter ego, Jack Camp—runs the team that off-loads opium at the docks and prepares it for distribution via the Northern Pacific Railroad. Police put eyes on the port after two dead men sporting track marks wash up nearby, placing new pressure on Alma to keep the trade flowing and everyone out of jail. Then Bess Spencer, Alma’s former Pinkerton colleague—and first love—shows up in Tacoma, throwing her into a tailspin. Meanwhile, Ben Collins, the new-in-town lover of one of Alma’s male dock workers, offers to join the crew when an illness leaves them shorthanded, but Alma can’t decide if he’s on the level or spying for the cops. Each of the main characters walks a tightrope between caring for their friends and protecting their self-interest, and the booming port city’s political drama provides a heated backdrop for the cat and mouse game between law enforcement and the smugglers. Carrasco presents Alma/Jack as more explicitly trans this time out, raising fascinating questions about the era’s gender dynamics, which she fleshes out with vivid depictions of men’s cruising bars and Ben’s internal struggles about his sexuality. Readers who love to root for the rogues will gobble this up. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Apr.)