Deadly Tricks

Book Review


by Kimberley Mansfield

Reviewed by Walter Cavalieri

I am compelled to start with a disclaimer.  I have known Kimberley Mansfield since the mid 1990s.  She is my friend.  She is also a friend to people who work in the sex trades, to people who use illicit drugs and to the field of harm reduction.  Kimberley is a good friend who goes the extra mile for all of us ...

“Deadly Tricks” is Kimberley Mansfield’s second book.  Her first, “Danced in My Brain”, was an absorbing and informative book about her personal experience with sex work and drugs, particularly cocaine.  I found it useful when I was teaching or mentoring students and new workers who needed a resource which would “tell it like it is”, with honesty, and would also show reason for faith in the inherent goodness of people, no matter what their status.

”Deadly Tricks ”is a novel, and that form has built-in strengths and weaknesses.  The major strength is that there is a story line you can become involved in.  And the major weakness - as I see it - is that readers may perceive the goodness, the resiliency and the sense of community of its characters as something not typical, because their lives are presented as fiction. 

Let me be clear about this.  The strengths of the women in “Deadly Tricks” are typical.  I have encountered them on the streets of Toronto, where I worked for many years, and I have met them in focus groups across Canada, when I explored the programming needs of members of the street communities.  As well these strengths are documented and confirmed in countless narratives and ethnographic research reports from around the world.

“Deadly Tricks”is about the search for meaning, a common thread in the lives of people living on or near the street.  Rebecca, a former sex trade worker, is brutalised by one of her tricks, barely escaping him with her life.  Maimed emotionally and physically, she retreats from life. 

When she recognises that her attack was one of a series, and that her attacker is still out there murdering women, Rebecca decides to face her own daemons square on, access her buried memories and bring the killer down.  This is her mission.  In the end, the mission brings meaning to her life beyond this single act of bravery.  Through choosing to address the personal pain she had endured, through opting for activism over hiding, Rebecca finds her calling in helping survival sex workers find better, safer lives.

It is the women Kimberley Mansfield introduces you to along the way to the denouement who will stick in your memory ... their stories, their relationships, and in some cases their deaths.  These women have an uncanny ring of truth, in their dreams, their struggles, their loyalties and their language.  Clearly Kimberley Mansfield has been there and listened - really listened - and keenly observed. 

More, she has her own experience to call on.  For a number of years, Ms. Mansfield was herself a survival sex worker.  She continues to work with women in the sex trades as an outreach worker, program developer, program manager and advocate.  She has been a pioneer in this field, as she has been in harm reduction.

“Deadly Tricks” will likely not be found at your local big box book store.    It is available through the publisher - either as a paperbound or in an electronic version.   Here is the contact information:

General Store Publishing House, Inc.

Renfrew, ON