Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, lives in Rapid City in the late 19th centurywhen airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a soiled dove, a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnables high-quality bordello. Through Karens eyes we get to know the other girls in the housea resourceful groupand the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyones mind and control their actions. And as if that wasnt bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heapa streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.