Karen Memory is a wonderful steampunk western romp set in Rapid City, a fictional city in the Pacific Northwest mostly based on Seattle, with some Portland, Vancouver, and San Francisco thrown in for good measure. Memory is the main character, a “seamstress” at a local high-end brothel. Her life gets turned upside-down when she helps take in two women on the run from the proprietor of a local low-end brothel (“crib house”) and a serial killer who targets women shows up in town.
Karen Memory has a lot going for it. Just when you think Bear will never finish the story and you’re just being set up for the sequel, she hits you with a double climax. It features real-life lawman Bass Reeves. Bass Reeves! (Seriously, look that dude up.) It’s wonderfully written in first person as told as a story by Memory, although it sometimes bogs down with Memory “explaining” everything (which is like mansplaining, but when a woman does it). Also the steampunk elements, while cool, are just kind of dropped into the story without explanation or development or thought for how the ramifications that kind of technology would have on society (this is an ongoing critique of steampunk for me). Overall, though, it’s a rollicking read well worth an afternoon.