Emma Donoghue's meticulously researched story of 1870s San Francisco is a perfectly realized murder mystery, but with a definite literary bent. Prostitutes, frog catchers, madams, gamblers, and "baby farms" all play an integral part here. What is so rewarding about this story are the characters; Donoghue created them from real-life people, based on sketchy references and slim information. Frog-catcher Jenny Bonnet and prostitute Blanche Beunon are two women you want to know. Trust me! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the worldwide bestseller Room
: "Her greatest achievement yet...Emma Donoghue shows more than range with Frog Music
— she shows genius." — Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.
The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice — if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.
In thrilling, cinematic style, Frog Music digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.
"Donoghue's first literary crime novel is a departure from her bestselling Room, but it's just as dark and just as gripping as the latter. Based on the circumstances surrounding the grizzly real-life murder of Jenny Bonnet, a law-flouting, pants-wearing frog catcher who lived in San Francisco in the mid-1870s, this investigation into who pulled the trigger is told in episodic flashbacks from the point of view of Blanche Beunon. Blanche is a raunchy, self-absorbed burlesque dancer and French émigré who befriended the alluring Bonnet and was with her on the night she was killed. Also woven into the plot is Blanche's sordid relationship with Albert Deneve, an extightrope walker, and his minion Ernest, who may have had a hand in the murder while swindling Blanche out of house, home, and one-year-old baby. Aside from the obvious whodunit factor, the book is filled with period song lyrics and other historic details, expertly researched and flushed out. The sweltering heat wave and smallpox epidemic that afflicted thousands in 1876, the Sinophobic takedown of Chinese businesses, and the proliferation of baby farms glorified dumping grounds for unwanted babies are all integrated into the story of Bonnet's tragic end. Donoghue's signature talent for setting tone and mood elevates the book from common cliffhanger to a true chef d'oeuvre." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Emma Donoghue shows more than range with Frog Music — she shows genius. Like and unlike her stunning Room, this novel lifts into view a strange crime, a remarkable woman, and is a Ringling Brothers-grade feat of narrative strength. As ever, Donoghue focuses on people on the skirts of the world, who make their way outside the common middle of things. Blanche and Jenny are characters you will never forget, filmed in vibrant, cinemascope prose, and they mark Emma Donoghue's greatest achievement yet." Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
"Donoghue flawlessly combines literary eloquence and vigorous plotting in her first full-fledged mystery, a work as original and multifaceted as its young murder victim....An engrossing and suspenseful tale about moral growth, unlikely friendship, and breaking free from the past." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Donoghue's evocative language invades the senses....Readers won't quickly forget this rollicking, fast-paced novel, which is based on a true story and displays fine bits of humor with underlying themes of female autonomy and the right to own one's sexual identity." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Donoghue proves herself endlessly inventive....[She] nails both the period details and the atmosphere — think sweltering heat waves, dumping grounds for unwanted babies, and smallpox epidemics. This is the kind of book that will keep you up at night and make you smarter." Cosmopolitan
"A riveting murder mystery....Fans of Emma Donoghue's previous book Room...will be shocked yet delighted by the change of pace in her new novel." Bookish
About the Author
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their two children. She also migrates between genres, writing literary history, biography, stage and radio plays as well as fairy tales and short stories. She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical (Slammerkin, Life Mask, Landing, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary (Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller RoomNew York Times Best Book of 2010 and was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes. For more information, visit www.emmadonoghue.com.