The virgin cure refers to the belief that men can be cured of syphilis by having sex with a virgin. This same misbelief will be repeated 150 years later about AIDS in certain parts of the world only spreading the disease further. McKay’s novel takes place in New York in the later part of the 19th century. It is a good companion novel to “The Gods of Gotham” which took place 50 years earlier. Gotham explored New York’s dark side from the point of view of the first detective when NYPD was first created. Virgin Cure explores the same territory but from the point of view of a 13 year old child. Moth’s mother sells Moth into service into a fine house. There is always food on the table; a kindly butler gives her advise. But the lady of the house is abusive, beating her with a fan and slapping her face all the while demanding affection and kisses. She doesn’t want to leave because she believes her mothers continues to receive financial assistance for her work. When she is attacked with a knife she knows she has to leave.
Arriving at her mothers home she finds strangers living in the tenement. Her mother has left and Moth is out on the street. Eventually she is taken to a brothel to be trained for a whore. There she meets a kindly female doctor, Sadie, who actually based on the authors great-great-grandmother.