Missy is laudanum, or liquid opium. Missy is Dol McQueen, a nineteen-year-old “flash-girl” traveling the arduous wagon trail from San Francisco to the boomtowns of the Sierra Nevada. Her purpose: to fleece the silver miners and to have a marvelous time.
Permanently gonged on missy, Dol and her entrepreneurial instincts wake up only when she comes into possession of a rum crate full of pure opium. But the crate has several owners, each more brutal than the last. Soon, instead of selling the boodle and opening her own establishment, Dol is fleeing across the salt flats and wastelands of the monumental American Southwest, where Civil War renegades, Native American mule thieves, and gangs of feral kids make hanging on to life a job for both hands.
Chris Hannan has mixed the irresistible Mark Twain of Roughing It with Annie Proulx’s brilliantly macabre wordplay, and the result is a historical novel of startling originality, in which every detail rings true. Dol McQueen is the most engaging antiheroine since Becky Sharp, and she makes Missy a debut of terrific energy, freshness, and delight.