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November 06 , 2009

South of the Deadline


It is 1910. Seattle’s notorious red light district, often called the “Deadline,” is doing a booming business in gambling, boozing and prostitution despite the efforts of reformers who are trying to shut it down. The police and the mayor are widely thought to be corrupt and guilty of graft.

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Clara Johnson, a music hall singer and prostitute, is found murdered in a cheap hotel. She has been handcuffed and strangled. Little attention is given the incident in the press. The police make no progress in finding the murderer.

When Sophie Bramson, fleeing the music halls of Paris and an abusive husband, returns to her childhood home in Seattle, she manages to get a job with Dr. Lars Haglund, an elderly surgeon and pioneer forensic scientist. Sidney Raskin, a hard-edged police detective with a reputation for brute force justice, interrupts their interview. Another prostitute has been found handcuffed and strangled, and Raskin wishes Haglund’s help on the case.

A wary courtship develops between Sophie and Raskin. Although she fears that he may be just another corrupt policeman, she is attracted to him. She thinks the police are not working hard enough to find the murderer of the two women because they were prostitutes and therefore not worthy of attention or sympathy. Over Raskin’s protestations and with help from her suffragist friends, the astute Haglund and a few “ladies of the evening,” Sophie takes on the dangerous task of investigating the deaths of the two women.

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