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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The author of the harrowing international bestseller Room shows remarkable range with this historical novel set in 19th-century San Francisco. Based loosely on real-life events, Frog Music opens with an explosive murder and weaves together a dark whodunit mystery with the moving story of an unlikely friendship between a French burlesque dancer and a gutsy, cross-dressing frog hunter. Emma Donoghue’s fantastically strong-willed characters and flair for depicting an anarchic, outlaw era of shifting morals and bold dreams make this atmospheric novel a real page-turner.
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 migr 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 ex tightrope 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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A Good Historical Novel
Well-researched and intelligently written, I took particular pleasure in the setting. The subjects were interesting, and the naughty bits were naughty- if a bit antisceptic.
Rough going at the entreé, however. The characters are very disjointed for the bulk of the book, and hindered by the chop of moving back-and-forth in time.
Best of 2014
Best written book I read in 2014.