The Best Bad Things: A Novel
by Katrina Carrasco
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Pub Date 06 Nov 2018
As a #NetGalley reader and reviewer I read the description of The Best Bad Things on NetGalley, which was the same description on Macmillan Publisher‘s page for The Best Bad Things.
“A brazen, brawny, sexy standout of a historical thrill ride, The Best Bad Things is full of unforgettable characters and insatiable appetites. I was riveted. Painstakingly researched and pulsing with adrenaline, Carrasco’s debut will leave you thirsty for more.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham”
“A vivid, sexy barn burner of a historical crime novel, The Best Bad Things introduces readers to the fiery Alma Rosales—detective, smuggler, spy.”
“It is 1887, and Alma Rosales is on the hunt for stolen opium. Trained in espionage by the Pinkerton Detective Agency—but dismissed for bad behavior and a penchant for going undercover as a man—Alma now works for Delphine Beaumond, the seductive mastermind of a West Coast smuggling ring.
When product goes missing at their Washington Territory outpost, Alma is tasked with tracking the thief and recovering the drugs. In disguise as the scrappy dockworker Jack Camp, this should be easy—once she muscles her way into the local organization, wins the trust of the magnetic local boss and his boys, discovers the turncoat, and keeps them all from uncovering her secrets. All this, while sending coded dispatches to the circling Pinkerton agents to keep them from closing in.
Alma’s enjoying her dangerous game of shifting identities and double crosses as she fights for a promotion and an invitation back into Delphine’s bed. But it’s getting harder and harder to keep her cover stories straight and to know whom to trust. One wrong move and she could be unmasked: as a woman, as a traitor, or as a spy.
A propulsive, sensual tour de force, The Best Bad Things introduces Katrina Carrasco, a bold new voice in crime fiction.”
I was fascinated by this description and requested to read The Best Bad Things. The book fits the description, but I was disappointed. Carrasco is an exceptional writer that will be around for a long time to come. I was disappointed as I struggled to find my way into the story as it was not as I had hoped from the onset, which made for slower reading than I prefer when I am reading a book that immediately pulls me into its world. I also struggled with believability. While a woman myself, I would never diminish the capabilities of another woman; however, I found the scenes where Alma Rosales would bind her breasts to make herself into Jack Camp by dressing (including adding padding to her pants to give the impression she had a penis), walking, talking, acting and fighting like a man were too farfetched for me. The men Jack Camp (Alma) tangled with were large strapping men, and while Jack Camp always walked away with bruises and other injuries, the other men took the brunt of the beating or died. A woman pretending to be a man in this manner was not practical to me, and we are talking about 1887.
As an English major, I have to call it as I see it and I saw several things I would recommend correcting before publishing The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco. Since what I reviewed is not the final product, I would like to hope the obvious will be edited more closely for a more gripping read. I won’t sugarcoat it; I often found myself stuck on grammar, the many misused dialogue tags of said and asked contributed to my inability to flow with the story and were distracting. The overwhelming sentence fragments, and the distractions of the time shifts, which made keeping up with exactly where I was in the story difficult as it jumped back and forth over the course of fifteen days. That said I have to give Carrasco credit for dating her chapters and letting you know beneath the date that the chapter you were starting was two days earlier, twelve days earlier, eleven days earlier, etc.; however, this did not alleviate the need to go back and forth while reading Carrasco’s book.
Time shifts in literature are not an easy feat for any author, but to ensure the writer does not lose their reader, the writer must have time shifts perfected in their writing for the sake of their readers. Additionally, there were so many secondary characters that at times it was confusing as to who was with whom. On a side note, Carrasco was precise with describing her characters, the fighting and sexual scenes, whether real or imagined. However, The Best Bad Things takes place in fifteen days, and a lot is happening with a host of characters in the story plot in a short amount of time. The missing words were a distraction. Alma is written as Alms in one instance that I observed, and “God damn it” is not written correctly; it’s either “Goddammit or God Damnit.” I also struggled with tying the title The Best Bad Things to the story.
My review may sound as if I am discouraging readers from buying Carrasco’s book, but that would be incorrect. I find Katrina Carrasco to be an incredibly talented writer who will be around a long time in the literature world. It’s hard when a reviewer receives an unedited book to read, and as an English major, it makes it twice as hard because there’s no missing the things an everyday reader would potentially not notice. I would much rather be on the other side as one of the editors working arduously to ensure Carrasco’s book is a best seller. To be clear I DO recommend Carrasco’s book The Best Bad Things as I know there is an audience for this book, but I also believe this audience could become much more substantial with a little more work. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Jack Camp, and I hope by the way Carrasco ended her novel that it’s an indication there is more to come. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the research effort Carrasco put into pulling her book together. While her characters are fictional, her story is a well-documented piece of history. This is a 3.5 Star Novel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From Macmillian Publisher)