I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Star rating: ★★★✰✰
A historical novel with a touch of noir, The Best Bad Things follows Alma Rosales, a shamed ex-Pinkerton agent looking to redeem herself. Her stealth and espionage skills lead her to a job with her ex-lover Delphine. Dressed as her alter-ego, Jack Camp, she infiltrates Delphine’s opium smuggling ring to find out where her missing product has been going.
Working to gain the trust of the boss, Nathaniel, leads Alma/Jack down a twisting path of double-crossers, secrets, and lies which she must navigate without letting anyone uncover her own secrets and her true identity.
This book is a difficult one to review, mostly because I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. The writing is amazing. There’s no doubt about the fact that Katrina Carrasco can write.
It’s vivid and brings you right onto the dirty streets of Port Townsend in the 1800s. Every word and every sentence perfectly evokes the atmosphere. As a reader, you can see the streets perfectly, smell the odours, and hear the sounds of the port. Every sense is used to bring you into the story.
But with such fantastic writing, I hoped that the plot and characters would have been a bit stronger. The plot is quite dense and can be difficult to keep up with at times. I found it confusing trying to remember who each character was and who they were working for. It’s definitely the kind of book you need to pay attention to, so don’t try to read it if you’re looking for something light.
I found that I wasn’t interested in a lot of the characters, either. We don’t get a lot of information about many of them. There are so many background characters that they all sort of become caricatures of dock workers and smugglers rather than fully developed characters.
Even Delphine, who is one of the main characters, seems to be a sort of ethereal woman who glides in and out of the story when it suits, instead of being an actual person.
That being said, Alma is a brilliant character. She’s strong, feisty, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. It’s not often you get a historical novel with such a fierce female lead, so it’s definitely refreshing. And to top it all off, she’s bisexual and doesn’t shy away from it. She is absolutely the redeeming force of this novel.
The Best Bad Things is a historical novel with a bit of oomph. If you like your female leads sassy and your plot meaty, then definitely give this book a go.
The Best Bad Things is available from MCD on 6th November 2018