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 GothamA vivid, sexy barn burner of a historical crime novel, The Best Bad Things introduces readers to the fiery Alma Rosales—detective, smuggler, spyIt 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.

The Best Bad Things Details

TitleThe Best Bad Things
Author
ReleaseNov 6th, 2018
PublisherMCD
ISBN-139780374123697
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, LGBT, GLBT, Queer

The Best Bad Things Review

  • Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
    January 1, 1970
    *Trigger Warning, book contains very explicit content and violence.*Inspired by one of the busiest seaports on the West Coast in the US, Townsend was a well-documented hot spot for smuggling in the late 1880’s. This makes it a perfect setting for a historical fiction novel with such a daring plot. Amidst the dirt of the trade, the characters are edgy, the scenes are explicit and the atmosphere reeks of dark, pungent alleys, infused with betrayal, espionage and murder. From the Author’s Note:San *Trigger Warning, book contains very explicit content and violence.*Inspired by one of the busiest seaports on the West Coast in the US, Townsend was a well-documented hot spot for smuggling in the late 1880’s. This makes it a perfect setting for a historical fiction novel with such a daring plot. Amidst the dirt of the trade, the characters are edgy, the scenes are explicit and the atmosphere reeks of dark, pungent alleys, infused with betrayal, espionage and murder. From the Author’s Note:San Francisco Chronicle, 1893: “The opium ring of the Northwest is a fearful, shadowy, impalpable something; shadowy in form, but most substantial in fact. It makes its presence known, yet it’s itself unknown. The subordinate members obey a system… [Directed by] some prominent citizen whose reputation in the commercial and social world is untainted….[U.S. government agents] are baffled and, watch as they will, they cannot find evidence enough to bring this man to justice.“The first thing that stood out to me was the writing in this novel. It is razor sharp, undoubtedly descriptive to please the senses, and witty. “Outside, everything feels tight and shiny, crowded with energy. Frost gilds the thrumming boardwalk. Candy-colored lanterns light the crowded mouths of pleasure houses. A saloon rattles with shouts and melodeon’s groaning.” – Katrina Carrasco“Green reek of kelp. Ship rigging rattles fifty feet out in the bay. She weaves through Lower Town, its shingles and piers coating the peninsula’s shore like a barnacle cluster. The road is humped with piled wooden crates and construction gear. The foundry’s furnaces suffuse the air with char.” - Katrina CarrascoAlma Rosales, the main character in this novel, goes undercover as Jack Camp, a dockworker. And she likes it too. Working for Delphine Beaumond, her former lover, she digs deep into the dark on goings in Port Townsend leaving no alley upturned in her craft. This role fits her well as she is trained in knifing, backstabbing plotting and…killing. Her role as Jack Camp, becomes her second skin. A role that also infuses her with desires and appetite. “To lacquer on manhood, Alma starts with the hands. Gentlemen wear rings. A working man wears calluses. He leaves dirty fingerprints on newspapers, drops peanut shells in his path. His nails may or may not be bitten. In winter his knuckles crack with cold.”- Katrina Carrasco“Alma rakes her teeth over her lower lip. She is itching to see Nell, her body primed by the brawl. It’s a long-ingrained habit: fighting, then f…ing.”- Katrina CarrascoIt does not take her long to figure out who is moving product and making the big bucks. The questions is, how? When some of the key players fall out of the game, it requires her to change tactic and establish alibies. As Jack Camp gets into brawls with henchmen and other interest groups, he almost bites the dust. Fueled with anger, can he frame the right person for the gain of his employer? Will Alma’s liking for certain characters jeopardize her decisions? Or is Jack Camp ultimately the pawn that’s at stake in this race to sell more opiates?***Alma’s bisexual character hovers between two identities, a first for me in a historical fiction novel. “She is being two things at once. Grinning hard like Camp, chin up like Camp. She is in the gray space between identities and he sees her and she is lit up, spark filled, starving.”- Katrina CarrascoThe title The Best Bad Things may elude to the power or the struggle of the character’s identity or what may be perceived as flaws during the 1880’s, but I cannot say for sure. It seems to me that Alma is more comfortable with herself then it is deemed proper in society at the time. She is actually rather full of vigor and zest spurred by her youth and desires for men and woman. She is confident in the moment when these strike. What I cannot emulate is that the explicit scenes are often a reaction to violent acts.What I foremost enjoyed in this book is the striking, vivid writing. Although not consistently strong at all times, it is a whirlwind of a read. One is thrown right into the action and it almost never stops. This perhaps came at the expense of the character development as I would have liked to connect more with the main characters, but not much of tangible background was revealed; leaving all the big players somewhat two dimensional for my taste. The scheme of the plot was brilliant and ever changing. As a reader it requires full attention to keep up with the cast and subplots. I may have missed a few things here and there, as it seems that at every page turn a different back-stab was lurking. Rereading some parts I highlighted with notes for this review made me dive right back and gain appreciation for different scenes of the action as it all came together at the end. Reading the epilogue again after the book, makes all sense now and is superbly befitting. This book is definitely for the mature audience and those attracted to historical settings. The heroine was strong, clever and refreshing. Her indomitable spirit was unstoppable. I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you!More of my reviews can be found here: https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    So, I’m a fan of mysteries and historical fiction. The idea of a mystery taking place in the 1880s sounded right up my alley. Add in a female protagonist and I was all set to like it. Unfortunately, it didn’t engage me the way I hoped. The writing was as dense as pea soup. Alma Rosales goes undercover as a man to find who is stealing opium from her boss, Delphine, who is also her former lover. But I really didn’t take an interest in Alma. I had trouble buying into her ability to pose as a man. S So, I’m a fan of mysteries and historical fiction. The idea of a mystery taking place in the 1880s sounded right up my alley. Add in a female protagonist and I was all set to like it. Unfortunately, it didn’t engage me the way I hoped. The writing was as dense as pea soup. Alma Rosales goes undercover as a man to find who is stealing opium from her boss, Delphine, who is also her former lover. But I really didn’t take an interest in Alma. I had trouble buying into her ability to pose as a man. She came across as two dimensional. In fact, all of the characters came across that way. There’s lots of two timing here, everyone trying to get a leg up on everyone else. There’s not a good soul in the book, everyone can be bought or turned. Character development has been sacrificed for a racing plot, with action on every page.Carrasco does a good job in giving you a sense of the time and place. I did appreciate that the book is based on Port Townsend’s real problem as a smuggling hot spot. It was a violent time and place and Carrasco captures that violence in all its goriness. This is not a book for the faint of heart. My thanks to netgalley and Farrah, Strout and Giroux for an advance copy of this book.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I was pleasantly surprised by Katrina Carrasco's The Best Bad Things which I picked up through NetGalley. I thought the premise behind this story was new and refreshing. Set in America's Gilded Age, The Best Bad Things illustrates how women were treated during that time, the juxtaposition of poverty with the onset of industrialization. Carrasco takes advantage of these happenings highlighting the building of the Railroad system and the opium epidemic within the context of the story. The main cha I was pleasantly surprised by Katrina Carrasco's The Best Bad Things which I picked up through NetGalley. I thought the premise behind this story was new and refreshing. Set in America's Gilded Age, The Best Bad Things illustrates how women were treated during that time, the juxtaposition of poverty with the onset of industrialization. Carrasco takes advantage of these happenings highlighting the building of the Railroad system and the opium epidemic within the context of the story. The main character Alma Rosales works as a detective. Her disguise is that of a man. She's taken on the persona of Jack Camp. As Camp , Alma is a spy, a detective and a tough as nails kick ass heroine. She has no problem using her sexual allure either as a male or as a female to get the job done. I hope that Carrasco's intention is to build a series around the character of Alma Rosales because I would certainly like to see more of her.
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  • CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
    January 1, 1970
    What an ending!!!! One whole extra star for the ending alone. Damn!!This historical crime / thriller novel is about a cross dressing former government spy who now works for an opium smuggling ring in the 1880s. Her boss Delphine (a fellow queer woman of colour) has sent her to investigate opium that's gone missing. This plot was a bit too smart for me -- I had trouble keeping track of characters and threads. This has happened to me before with mysteries, I guess my brain is not inclined that way What an ending!!!! One whole extra star for the ending alone. Damn!!This historical crime / thriller novel is about a cross dressing former government spy who now works for an opium smuggling ring in the 1880s. Her boss Delphine (a fellow queer woman of colour) has sent her to investigate opium that's gone missing. This plot was a bit too smart for me -- I had trouble keeping track of characters and threads. This has happened to me before with mysteries, I guess my brain is not inclined that way?I also prefer my characters less morally ... corrupt? I mean, I know they're opium smugglers and all, but I found it hard to connect with them emotionally at times because they were so immoral. I wanted more vulnerability from them, and Alma in particular.But I also found this book fascinating. The setting was richly realized and very transportive. It was cool to read about the Pacific Northwest, my part of the world! Also, in a few key spots, this novel is very sexy and extremely well done in that respect. (There are very hot f/f and m/f sex scenes). It's still rare to find a representation of bisexuality in fiction where you get to see the full spectrum of the character's sexuality and different partners, and I LOVED that part of the book. It was also cool to see a gender non conforming, gender fluid (?) bi character. And all this in a story not focused on gender or sexuality too!Oh, and I forgot to mention that I LOVED the writing. Very visceral and unique, bold even, in terms of style.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I was so excited to read this one, but it really ended up being a let down for me! I couldn't finish it. I found the writing really dense and dry and I was just so bored. Apparently fighting and opium smuggling are not my thing. A lot of people clearly had a much better experience, so I'd say give it a try if the blurb sounds interesting, but this one was just not for me.*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    A vivd cast of characters, a strong decisive style, and a burning tension throughout make The Best Bad Things a book I can highly recommend. Alma Rosales is a smart, savvy character who will not be forgotten any time soon. A great debut novel.Thank you to NetGalley, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and Katrina Carrasco for the advanced copy for review.Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/05/09/th...Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
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  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    Washington Territory, 1887: Alma Rosales has been dismissed from the Pinkerton's Detective Agency for her questionable behavior and after a brief stint in California as a P.I., she's working for her former lover Delphine, the head of an opium smuggling ring.Disguised as a man named Jack Camp, Rosales infiltrates the local organization on the docks of Port Townsend to discover who has been stealing product from Delphine.  She manages to earn the trust of the crew and their boss, Nathaniel Wheeler Washington Territory, 1887: Alma Rosales has been dismissed from the Pinkerton's Detective Agency for her questionable behavior and after a brief stint in California as a P.I., she's working for her former lover Delphine, the head of an opium smuggling ring.Disguised as a man named Jack Camp, Rosales infiltrates the local organization on the docks of Port Townsend to discover who has been stealing product from Delphine.  She manages to earn the trust of the crew and their boss, Nathaniel Wheeler, who is discreetly moving Delphine's product along the West coast.Rosales has a bad habit of putting herself into dangerous situations:  dressing as a man and chasing after women are only two of the habits that could get her killed.  She's also sending coded messages to Pinkerton's agents with details on the smuggling operations.One wrong move and the many identities she has carefully created to suit her motives could topple the flimsy house of cards built on deception.The Best Bad Things seriously kept me on my toes!  It can get confusing as it jumps back and forth over a short period of time, only revealing particular details to the plot when the author is ready to show her hand.  There are also several subplots that run the course of the novel, only making sense toward the end.Overall, the plot was brilliantly constructed with several twists and motives that remain unclear for a while, causing you to wonder where exactly our main character's loyalty truly lies.  The many deceptions Rosales juggles makes for intense action and drama.Alma Rosales is a refreshing female protagonist in a genre traditionally centered entirely around male characters.  She's clever, confident, strong, and sexually charged in a time period when all of these traits were shocking and inappropriate for women.While the primary plot and its subplots eventually come together in a clever execution, the order in which its told can be confusing or frustrating at times.  There were several inessential scenes and descriptions that didn't really add to the development of the characters or their story.  I'll warn readers there are gratuitous sex scenes and some contain or are spurred by violence*, though I found them to be well written and actually adding insight into Rosales's behavior and gender fluidity.A Western-ish/noir-ish/historical fiction crime drama featuring a complex female protagonist who leaves us guessing at every turn, The Best Bad Things is an impressive debut with an original spin on a genre mash up.Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Best Bad Things is scheduled for release on November 6, 2018. *Trigger warnings for explicit/violent content. For more full reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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  • - ̗̀ DANY ̖́- (danyreads)
    January 1, 1970
    . : ☾⋆ — 3 ★ READ THIS REVIEW ON MY BLOG!!!https://bit.ly/2C22f0rARC provided from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!)The Best Bad Things follows Alma Rosales, a gender-fluid, half Mexican, bisexual Pinkerton agent in the late 1880s in Port Townsend, Washington. Alma, working undercover for her former-lover-turned-boss, infiltrates the local drug outpost disguised as a male dockworker in the hunt for stolen opium from a West Coast . : ☾⋆ — 3 ★ READ THIS REVIEW ON MY BLOG!!!https://bit.ly/2C22f0rARC provided from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!)The Best Bad Things follows Alma Rosales, a gender-fluid, half Mexican, bisexual Pinkerton agent in the late 1880s in Port Townsend, Washington. Alma, working undercover for her former-lover-turned-boss, infiltrates the local drug outpost disguised as a male dockworker in the hunt for stolen opium from a West Coast smuggling ring. this book is not for everyone. i’m not even sure it was for me but i really can’t think of another word that fully encapsulates my feelings for this book other than BOLD. The Best Bad Things is an absolute masterpiece in terms of atmosphere and ambience. Katrina Carrasco’s sharp, beautifully detailed writing style pulls you into this setting that feels incredibly vivid, almost tangible. it evokes this extremely particular feeling, and does so perfectly. i’ll admit this book even made me open up a new playlist so i could put together some songs that would match the precise ambience this book conjures, it’s such an exclusive and rare thing nowadays to find writing that absolutely transcends and leaps off the pages like this one does. i don’t even know how to explain just exactly how amazing Katrina Carrasco’s writing is. Alma herself is one of the most refreshing main characters i’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time. she’s tough and she’s bisexual and she’s latina and she’s just brilliant. Katrina Carrasco is BRILLIANT. my one and only issue with The Best Bad Things is that, unfortunately, i don’t think the plot itself was necessarily the most compelling thing about the book. i wasn’t particularly interested in it. this sucks, obviously, and i do love historical fiction so i really don’t know what went wrong here. the plot, in my opinion, was dense at best. hard to keep up with. dragged a little. this probably has to do more with me as a reader than with the book or the author, but this book is definitely not an easy ride. it dragged the book down for me but i think it’s absolutely a worthy read for the writing alone. it really is tough to find a book that completely envelops you to the very core in its essence and atmosphere. Katrina Carrasco really is dauntingly terrific. thanks again to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    A shape shifting Pinkerton operator in Port Townsend, before Washington became a state. Well written with much mystery and enough intrigue. Hopefully there will be more from this author in a series that promises originality and style.
  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco is a multi-layered novel based in the 1880's Pacific Northwest that details the infiltration of the opium drug smuggling business by Alma Rosales. It is not a spoiler to describe Rosales employs the disguise of different characters in her investigation, including that as portraying herself as a rough and tumble man named Jack Camp.Rosales, once worked for the Pinkerton Agency and now as both Jack Camp and Alma Rosales, is now employed by a bi-racial, belie The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco is a multi-layered novel based in the 1880's Pacific Northwest that details the infiltration of the opium drug smuggling business by Alma Rosales. It is not a spoiler to describe Rosales employs the disguise of different characters in her investigation, including that as portraying herself as a rough and tumble man named Jack Camp.Rosales, once worked for the Pinkerton Agency and now as both Jack Camp and Alma Rosales, is now employed by a bi-racial, believed to be socialite widow, Delphine, with hidden talents of her own. Rosales is tasked with infiltrating the opium smuggling to both determine those involved and to determine those involved in the stealing of parts of the smuggled opium loads.When starting to read the novel, the prologue mislead this reader into thinking the staccato-like writing style was going to be similar to that of James Ellroy throughout the novel. That ended up being wildly incorrect. The descriptive power of the writing of the novel was wonderfully well done and caused this reader to imagine watching an episode of HBO's past Deadwood series. Roads of damp, boot-sucking muck, bare wood, unfinished business floors and a haze of wood smoke over the town were always present in the mind's eye. With such an evocative atmosphere, so successfully done, this reader badly wanted this novel to be one of the best so far read in 2019. Unfortunately, with things like many characters creating a murky, hard to follow plot, the plot became confusing and the progress of the story repetitive. Early on we learn the Alma Rosales character is one of stated raw desires and how she enjoys the company of both men and women. We are then told many, many times of what she wants when just several times would have been quite sufficient. The characterization of one of her physical pursuits became such a cat and mouse, stop and go (interrupted) endeavor, that quickly grew to be more of an irritant than of interest to read about. One imagines tighter editing of the novel may have been in order, which could have also dealt more with the seemingly abrupt ending of the novel, which now appears to be headed toward a sequel.
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  • Taryn Pierson
    January 1, 1970
    And the award for most apt title goes to…! This book is seriously gritty, dark, bloody, at times disturbing, and after listing those descriptors I’m not sure I can articulate why I liked it so much. Maybe because, like its main character, it doesn’t apologize for how nasty it is. Alma Rosales, sometimes known as Jack Camp, is a former Pinkerton agent who is now working her way up the ladder in a smuggling ring headed by her beautiful onetime lover, Delphine. When she’s summoned from San Francisc And the award for most apt title goes to…! This book is seriously gritty, dark, bloody, at times disturbing, and after listing those descriptors I’m not sure I can articulate why I liked it so much. Maybe because, like its main character, it doesn’t apologize for how nasty it is. Alma Rosales, sometimes known as Jack Camp, is a former Pinkerton agent who is now working her way up the ladder in a smuggling ring headed by her beautiful onetime lover, Delphine. When she’s summoned from San Francisco to Port Townsend to infiltrate Delphine’s crew, sniffing out competitors on the outside and moles on the inside, Alma is sucked into a game so complex, I wasn’t sure until the very last page who was pulling the strings. And what a last page it is! I have a famously bad memory and most endings don’t stick with me, but I bet if you ask me a year from now how this book ended, I’ll be able to tell you. It’s one of those endings that somehow has both the feeling of total inevitability and total surprise—I had no idea which way it was going to go, but I felt like every word had led up to those few breathless seconds. The action takes place in 1887, and rarely has a book brought an era to such visceral life. You will be able to smell the sweat in the characters’ armpits. Whether that’s something you want in your reading or not, I’ll leave up to you. Would make a hell of a TV series.
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  • Kaijsa
    January 1, 1970
    This was not for me. Alma Rosales was a completely unbelievable character, and I couldn't suspend my disbelief. I wanted to love this book and the description attracted me mostly because of Alma. She isn't like anybody I've read about before and that appealed to me--I'd love to read more with gender fluid characters of color in a different book. But beyond the almost superhuman protagonist (she can fight anybody and miraculously heal!), I wasn't into the writing style or the violence, especially This was not for me. Alma Rosales was a completely unbelievable character, and I couldn't suspend my disbelief. I wanted to love this book and the description attracted me mostly because of Alma. She isn't like anybody I've read about before and that appealed to me--I'd love to read more with gender fluid characters of color in a different book. But beyond the almost superhuman protagonist (she can fight anybody and miraculously heal!), I wasn't into the writing style or the violence, especially sexual violence. Like I said, this just isn't for me.I received a free ebook ARC from Farrar, Straus & Giroux via NetGalley. This is my honest review.
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  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars.
  • Rana
    January 1, 1970
    Nope. Two major issues here: 1. The "gender fluidity" that other reviewers called out felt incredibly inauthentic, I think because there was actually very little character development at all, just this weird emphasis on sex and desire and nothing else. 2. There's a point at which the protagonist speaks in some Chinese language and I'm almost 100% sure it was completely made up. I tried a thousand different ways to get the words to make sense through Google translate and it wasn't working. It als Nope. Two major issues here: 1. The "gender fluidity" that other reviewers called out felt incredibly inauthentic, I think because there was actually very little character development at all, just this weird emphasis on sex and desire and nothing else. 2. There's a point at which the protagonist speaks in some Chinese language and I'm almost 100% sure it was completely made up. I tried a thousand different ways to get the words to make sense through Google translate and it wasn't working. It also just looked wrong, letters strung together that I haven't ever seen together in any sort of writing using a Chinese language. So, yeah, no thanks, this is a DNF.
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  • Martha
    January 1, 1970
    The highest compliment I can pay this book is to say that it completely consumed my brain while I was reading it -- everything that happened in my day made me think of it, and I spent most of my waking moments at least 15% in its world. Everything in that world is distinctive and fully formed, from the environment to the relationships and the characters, and the comfort with which Carrasco addresses the complexities of gender is impressive and reassuring. So, basically: Better than Cats, would r The highest compliment I can pay this book is to say that it completely consumed my brain while I was reading it -- everything that happened in my day made me think of it, and I spent most of my waking moments at least 15% in its world. Everything in that world is distinctive and fully formed, from the environment to the relationships and the characters, and the comfort with which Carrasco addresses the complexities of gender is impressive and reassuring. So, basically: Better than Cats, would recommend.
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  • Geonn Cannon
    January 1, 1970
    This book sounded like it was tailor-made for me. Female Pinkerton agent in pre-statehood Washington (Port Townsend, to be exact), AND she likes the ladies? I've never wanted Netgalley to approve me for a book than this one. It did not disappoint!While it has a strong mystery plot as the backbone, the real draw of this book is the main character (who is bisexual, as it turns out). Alma is one of the toughest protagonists I've read in a long time. Is Alma good or bad? Is she the law or a criminal This book sounded like it was tailor-made for me. Female Pinkerton agent in pre-statehood Washington (Port Townsend, to be exact), AND she likes the ladies? I've never wanted Netgalley to approve me for a book than this one. It did not disappoint!While it has a strong mystery plot as the backbone, the real draw of this book is the main character (who is bisexual, as it turns out). Alma is one of the toughest protagonists I've read in a long time. Is Alma good or bad? Is she the law or a criminal? The answer is yes. Alma's loyalty is to herself and whatever can best serve her in the moment. Carrasco takes the time to really get into her head and show us the world from her perspective. She's always working the angles, never panicking or letting herself get found wrongfooted. I really appreciated the care which was given to Alma's transformation into Jack. It wasn't a simple matter of putting on new clothes and changing her voice, there was a true process that the author did a great job portraying. This is a book where the story is a backdrop for us to meet a truly original, fascinating character. That said, the writing is fantastic and instantly evocative of the time period. The world opens up almost immediately in all its ugliness and beauty and violence. The characters are well-drawn (if there was ever a spinoff or a prequel or anything with Delphine, sign me up). I look forward to recommending this - and really anything else Katrina Carrasco writes in the future - to everyone I know.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    This book started off with a bang and I remember thinking, "Oh man...this is going to be an awesome book." Sadly though, for me personally, things started to go downhill shortly thereafter and I could barely sustain enough interest to finish it. To be clear, I don't think this is necessarily a BAD book. There is some very solid writing in here. I think it just wasn't a match for me.The book does have a damn fine opening though. Lots of action and Alma/Jack is an intriguing lead character. I love This book started off with a bang and I remember thinking, "Oh man...this is going to be an awesome book." Sadly though, for me personally, things started to go downhill shortly thereafter and I could barely sustain enough interest to finish it. To be clear, I don't think this is necessarily a BAD book. There is some very solid writing in here. I think it just wasn't a match for me.The book does have a damn fine opening though. Lots of action and Alma/Jack is an intriguing lead character. I loved reading about her approach to gender roles and I thought there was great, complex sexual tension between her and other characters because of it. The thing that was problematic for me personally was the plot was dense with characters and their various plans, backstabbing, and double crossing. At times it felt like a lot to wade though. I also felt like as a result, interpersonal relationships (and at times even compelling action scenes) got the short shift in favor of more exposition and plot maneuvers. Ultimately it dragged the book down for me.Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Authentikate
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars Alma Rosales is a new sort of heroine. She’s smart. She’s brash. She’s a snoop and a spy. She’s daring, sharp-tongued and maybe a little too full of herself. Her self-confidence is both a blessing and a curse as she sets off on high-adrenaline historical fiction suspenseful thrill ride. A former detective for the notorious Pinkerton agency, Alma, fired but unwilling to give up the hunt, begins her work for a jasmine-dripped woman named Delphine. Alma goes undercover as a man named Jack 3.5 Stars Alma Rosales is a new sort of heroine. She’s smart. She’s brash. She’s a snoop and a spy. She’s daring, sharp-tongued and maybe a little too full of herself. Her self-confidence is both a blessing and a curse as she sets off on high-adrenaline historical fiction suspenseful thrill ride. A former detective for the notorious Pinkerton agency, Alma, fired but unwilling to give up the hunt, begins her work for a jasmine-dripped woman named Delphine. Alma goes undercover as a man named Jack Camp to infiltrate a local man’s business. There’s opium. There’s murder. And there’s plenty of sexual tension as Alma/Jack employs scheme after scheme to aid Delphine and keep the Pinkertons at bay. What sets this novel apart is clear: the heroine. She’s Latina. She’s a woman. She’s overtly sexual on all sides. She’s tough. It’s refreshing to have a female character who smashes stereotypes and gets the job done in the process. My only snag was I felt the story didn’t build so much as leap, if that makes sense.
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  • Karen Kay
    January 1, 1970
    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Alma Rosales is searching for stolen opium. Shifting between a lady and her male persona Jack Camp, she lies, cheats and kills to find what she is looking for.It was an effort to get through this, having to read over the previous pages to keep track of the story. The writing was okay, but the story and its characters were a struggle to follow. 2☆
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Been describing this as "If Quentin Tarantino were a queer woman and wrote historical fiction," and I stand by that it. Gritty but not depressing, sexy, violent, and a TON of fun to read (more fun than watching a Tarantino movie). Alma/Jack, the brawling, careless, ambitious character at the heart of this novel is just unforgettable. I have a few quibbles, but this was so unusual and engaging that I can mostly ignore them.
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  • Heidi
    January 1, 1970
    This bloody, thrilling, mysterious book left me breathless and wanting more. It’s unlike anything else, a remarkable and revelatory debut tackling the intersections of gender, violence, lust, greed, and power against the historical backdrop of late 19th century Washington State in the age of mining, shipping, and opium smuggling. This novel’s protagonist resists gender categorization although many will likely attempt to put Alma Rosales and Jack Camp into neat boxes. Don’t fall for it. Stay in t This bloody, thrilling, mysterious book left me breathless and wanting more. It’s unlike anything else, a remarkable and revelatory debut tackling the intersections of gender, violence, lust, greed, and power against the historical backdrop of late 19th century Washington State in the age of mining, shipping, and opium smuggling. This novel’s protagonist resists gender categorization although many will likely attempt to put Alma Rosales and Jack Camp into neat boxes. Don’t fall for it. Stay in the tension of Carrasco’s world and acknowledge the brilliant ways Port Townsend’s characters disrupt your assumptions about what a Western Historical Fiction novel should be, it will surely be made into a film. Read it with a friend before Hollywood interprets it for you. It promises a “book hangover” like no other!
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  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    I came for a great read and I got a major motion picture in my head! Reading The Best Bad Things is like being plunged into a queer historical action-adventure movie, with the character-driven nuance of prestige TV—and literary fiction. To say that this novel pulses with life is as close to literal as can be; Katrina Carrasco takes us inside the physicality of her fearless, calculating, inimitable protagonist Alma Rosales to a degree I’ve rarely experienced before as a reader, and all without re I came for a great read and I got a major motion picture in my head! Reading The Best Bad Things is like being plunged into a queer historical action-adventure movie, with the character-driven nuance of prestige TV—and literary fiction. To say that this novel pulses with life is as close to literal as can be; Katrina Carrasco takes us inside the physicality of her fearless, calculating, inimitable protagonist Alma Rosales to a degree I’ve rarely experienced before as a reader, and all without relying on a first person narrative. It’s a visceral story, sparing the reader nothing — yep, there’s sex and violence aplenty, and the narrator doesn’t pan away. It’s a complicated plot, deftly driven by Carrasco’s muscular prose — no word wasted, not a single throwaway sentence. It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the style because it is so chock-full: vivid verbs and loaded images; short on exposition, long on action and scene. It’s an “edge of your seat” type of read that makes you pay attention — because Alma is paying attention. In fact, just how much Alma notices is my favorite part of her psyche as a character and of the book as a whole. Queer readers will appreciate a view into what life was like for the genderbenders of yesterday, and those who lived, survived, and struggled to thrive outside the binary. If you’re looking for a nice historical detective novel with a “lady spy” at the center, The Best Bad Things probably isn’t quite what you’re hoping for. But if you’re looking for a brutal, swaggering, sexy romp of a story with a protagonist who breaks the mold, this one’s for you. This book is everything I hoped it would be. I hope we get to read more of Alma’s life and times in future reads.
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  • Kylie
    January 1, 1970
    Queer bisexual mystery of my dreams, where have you been all my life?! I love queer, subversive characters. Gritty mysteries. Well-written sexual tension. Yet I've never gotten all three in one book -- until The Best Bad Things. I found myself constantly delighted by how Carrasco's characters transgress the social norms we (or at least I) usually assume were in place during the late 1800s. As a queer person, it was so incredibly refreshing to read.The book really picked up for me about halfway t Queer bisexual mystery of my dreams, where have you been all my life?! I love queer, subversive characters. Gritty mysteries. Well-written sexual tension. Yet I've never gotten all three in one book -- until The Best Bad Things. I found myself constantly delighted by how Carrasco's characters transgress the social norms we (or at least I) usually assume were in place during the late 1800s. As a queer person, it was so incredibly refreshing to read.The book really picked up for me about halfway through, after which point I was hooked until the very last sentence (ughhh the ending is SO PERFECT). Can someone please make this into a movie? I can't wait for Carrasco's next novel.
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    Super confused by the high reviews on this book. I love to read and rarely find books I don’t at least kind of like. This is one of the books I really don’t like. Overall the story could have been great when you look at the bones of it, hence my two star rating. But ultimately this particular telling was a bomb for me. And what is it with the sexual violence? I don’t feel it added to the story at all. Don’t waste your time on this one.
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  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    A novel set in 1887 in Port Townsend, Washington, starring Alma Rosales: ex-Pinkerton detective, current opium smuggler. Alma is newly arrived in Port Townsend, and is there on a mission. Part One: figure out who is the head of the opium game in town. Part Two: take his place. As you might imagine, this turns out to be far more complicated than she originally planned, and the plot turns on blackmail, murder, torture, bribes, backstabbing, moles, broken promises, fake interrogations, mistaken ide A novel set in 1887 in Port Townsend, Washington, starring Alma Rosales: ex-Pinkerton detective, current opium smuggler. Alma is newly arrived in Port Townsend, and is there on a mission. Part One: figure out who is the head of the opium game in town. Part Two: take his place. As you might imagine, this turns out to be far more complicated than she originally planned, and the plot turns on blackmail, murder, torture, bribes, backstabbing, moles, broken promises, fake interrogations, mistaken identities, and more. It's as twisty and surprising as the very best heist movies, and I can honestly say that I did not see the end coming at all. Alma is the best bad thing of all: brutal and ruthless, clever and tough, and moving forward so fast that we barely see the regrets in her past. She's bisexual (and we see her relationships with both men and women), Latina, and possibly genderqueer; she spends most of the book passing as Jack Camp, boxer and dockworker. But on the other hand, the narrative sticks firmly with the 'she' pronoun, and Alma shifts between races and classes as easily as between genders. We see her be a Scottish virgin and a Southern belle Madam at other points in the book. It's unclear if she is genderqueer, or if she simply loves the disguises:Alma can be many things. She has learned to value this mutability: how she can shift her compact body into many shapes, powder herself pale or let the sun darken her complexion. She loves to see her costumes through other people’s eyes. Delphine watching her as Camp, cutting a deal over fenced diamonds in San Francisco. Wheeler watching her as a governess, timid and wilting. Hannah watching her as a rancher’s daughter, flirting in rapid Spanish with the Yuma vaqueros. Alma loves performance. What began as a thrilling trick in a Chicago saloon has become a passion. And now she’s back onstage before her favorite audience—though it’s hard work to win Delphine’s applause.But the most distinctive thing about The Best Bad Things is its style. For all the Western action, heist twists, and gun battles, it's very much a literary novel. It might concern itself with tropes, but it takes them very, very seriously. I was reminded of Steve McQueen's Widows: another plot that outwardly seems like not much more than old cliches, but which is told with the highest craft and a dazzlingly brilliant investigation of these characters and their world. Unfortunately – in both Widows and The Best Bad Things – the sharp-eyed intelligence of the telling reduces some of the pleasure. Heist stories should be (or at least usually are) fun, and I can't quite call The Best Bad Things fun. It's too violent and cynical for that, and it's hard to have good time when the writing never looks away from the characters' struggle for survival. Is that a criticism? Probably not. The Best Bad Things wasn't what I expected from its blurb, but it's hard to complain that a book is too well-written. I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Aj Smith
    January 1, 1970
    This was one of final books I read in 2018, (well I listened to the audiobook, although I have also bought the book and will be reading it the traditional way very soon) but even before I finished it, The Best Bad Things shot rapidly to the joint top of my books of the year list. Everything about this book seriously excellent; the writing is raw and compelling, leaving me utterly spellbound from the outset. There's a broad cast of characters but it's not confusing, they're all so well created an This was one of final books I read in 2018, (well I listened to the audiobook, although I have also bought the book and will be reading it the traditional way very soon) but even before I finished it, The Best Bad Things shot rapidly to the joint top of my books of the year list. Everything about this book seriously excellent; the writing is raw and compelling, leaving me utterly spellbound from the outset. There's a broad cast of characters but it's not confusing, they're all so well created and forged in the reader's mind that even with all the dirty double dealing going on I had no trouble remembering and more importantly picturing who was who. As well as the people, the town of Port Townsend circa 1887 is lovingly recreated for us (Carrasco has shared some of her research in the form of non-fiction articles on historic Port Townsend on her website), again so vividly that you can almost picture walking the streets with Alma/Jack, Wheeler & Delphine. Aside from the quality of the writing this is also a bloody good story laced with sex, murder and intrigue. The plot whips along with just the right amount of twists and turns, none of which I saw coming! I fell in love with half the characters and wanted to punch quite a few of the others, serious on the edge of my seat stuff. I would recommend, nay insist, you all go out and read this as soon as possible! Since I finished it I have found and devoured some short fiction and non-fiction articles by Carrasco, she's just one of the most talented writers I've come across in a long time.
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  • Ed Bernard
    January 1, 1970
    Hm. Some things are better than the sum of their parts, like the 2016 Super Bowl Champion NE Patriots. This book is the opposite. Everything is in place for a terrific historical suspense thriller – a compelling protagonist, a richly researched time and place, a dramatic plot with a lot of competing interests, beautifully written sentences and a fine ear for dialog, many good secondary characters. And yet, at least for me, this book was a bit of a slog. Honestly, if any of the above were NOT tru Hm. Some things are better than the sum of their parts, like the 2016 Super Bowl Champion NE Patriots. This book is the opposite. Everything is in place for a terrific historical suspense thriller – a compelling protagonist, a richly researched time and place, a dramatic plot with a lot of competing interests, beautifully written sentences and a fine ear for dialog, many good secondary characters. And yet, at least for me, this book was a bit of a slog. Honestly, if any of the above were NOT true, I would not have bothered to finish, and did take the book’s temperature at each 50 page interval. It was just a slow read, momentum never really built up, it was easy to lose site of which character had which affiliation to whom, etc. I think the author has talent (this is her first book), but the way it ended makes me worry that she will re-visit this protagonist and time period again and if she does, I’m not interested (Amy Stewart has a similar problem, IMO, with Constance Kopp – I read and enjoyed the first two novels about her, and I like the author, but I’m done with the character). Again, this is not a bad book, it’s actually pretty good, but by the time I got to the end, I was more relieved than invigorated, which is not what you hope for.Grade: B –PS. The blurbs that accompany the book are really very far off the mark. "Brazen?" "Barnburner?" I must've read a different book or something.
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  • Melissa Dee
    January 1, 1970
    Its easy to dismiss some of the violent, gritty periods in history as the product of excess testosterone and insufficient civilization. But the story of the women who chose to dress as men, and swagger their way through the early part of the century defies that explanation. Alma Rosales is a ruthless, ambitious ex-Pinkerton detective. She works as a man named Jack Camp. More than bisexual, Rosales/Camp seems to have no fixed sexual identity at all; she slips into either of her identities with ea Its easy to dismiss some of the violent, gritty periods in history as the product of excess testosterone and insufficient civilization. But the story of the women who chose to dress as men, and swagger their way through the early part of the century defies that explanation. Alma Rosales is a ruthless, ambitious ex-Pinkerton detective. She works as a man named Jack Camp. More than bisexual, Rosales/Camp seems to have no fixed sexual identity at all; she slips into either of her identities with ease. She has been brought into town to find a thief, and plans to leverage her work into a role in the thriving opium trade.Set in the warehouses, boardinghouses, saloons and opium dens of Port Townsend, Washington in January 1887, Carrasco’s debut novel is full of the blood, sweat and tears of turn of the century America.Carrasco clearly did all her research to gather her facts, but the details she uses to make her characters come to life are all literary talent.I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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  • Wendy
    January 1, 1970
    3.5*- ish. It's hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It's about Anna / Jack (depending on what the situation warrants, Anna goes around as Jack). She works in an opium smuggling ring in the late 1800s, headed by a queer woman of color, Delphine. Someone has been stealing product and she is tasked to find out who. Anna is a complex character. She's bisexual, I guess. However, I get the idea that she just likes sex. Her dressing up as a man stems from trying to do "manly" job, like b 3.5*- ish. It's hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It's about Anna / Jack (depending on what the situation warrants, Anna goes around as Jack). She works in an opium smuggling ring in the late 1800s, headed by a queer woman of color, Delphine. Someone has been stealing product and she is tasked to find out who. Anna is a complex character. She's bisexual, I guess. However, I get the idea that she just likes sex. Her dressing up as a man stems from trying to do "manly" job, like being a detective. But she also enjoys that she can fool other people so easily. She's ambitious, wily, and quite cut-throat. This book is certainly not like any other ordinary book. I find it an engaging read. Hard to follow sometimes as there were some time jumps between some of the chapters. It all comes together at the end though.
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  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    It's 1887 and Detective Alma Rosales is on the hunt for stolen opium.It's best for mature audiences as we have a character who operates as bi sexual and often shows her sexual prowess after certain violent actions which was bizarre as a reader.Many may take issue with the fact she's also gone undercover as a man throwing the relatable factor to the main character out the window. In terms of writing style it was spot on and superb. It captured the readers attention and never let up so be prepared It's 1887 and Detective Alma Rosales is on the hunt for stolen opium.It's best for mature audiences as we have a character who operates as bi sexual and often shows her sexual prowess after certain violent actions which was bizarre as a reader.Many may take issue with the fact she's also gone undercover as a man throwing the relatable factor to the main character out the window. In terms of writing style it was spot on and superb. It captured the readers attention and never let up so be prepared for a whirlwind read.The plot thickens like momma's gravy and gets crazy with the smuggling rings being energized.Perhaps you should be careful who you mingle with as you truly can't trust anyone...Just sayin'Enjoy!
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