4 of 5 stars.
This steampunk western reads like a favorite episode of Whedon’s Firefly. In Seattle, under the strong hand of brothel proprietor Madam Damnable, Hotel Mon Cherie bustles with colorful characters, most of whom ply the world’s oldest trade.
Karen, the second youngest working girl there, narrates as Crispin mans the door, Effie the shotgun, and Lizzie the medical supplies. Everyone has a role to play in this smooth operation:
. . . and the thing about Miss Francina is that Miss Francina’s got a pecker under her dress. But that ain’t nothing but God’s rude joke. She’s one of us girls every way else, and handy for a bouncer.
The whorehouses along the docks are a different can of worms. The men pimping the immigrant girls there do it by fist and threat. When former dockgirl and emancipator Merry Lee is shot, newly emancipated and heavily bruised Priya carries Merry uptown to Hotel Mon Cherie for refuge and medical aid. Shrewish pimp Peter Brantle and three of his cronies burst in demanding payback for the loss of Priya . . .
This vignette is highly recommended. The colorful ideolect of the Hotel’s girls is most enjoyable. Bear’s ear for accent and speech patterns impresses.
“Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Dead Man’s Hand, ed. John Joseph Adams (Titan Books). I’ve previously reviewed Bear’s: “The Hand is Quicker–“ and “Swell” which are both enjoyable.
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