Kelli Stanley follows up the success of her first Miranda Corbie mystery, City of Dragons, with another powerful story set in San Francisco. City of Secrets brings that city to life in 1940, with all of its crime, racism, and corruptness. At the same time, Miranda, and Stanley are obviously in love with the city, despite its history. It’s evident in the atmosphere Stanley creates, and the story of the private detective who walks its streets.
Some in the police department don’t admire Miranda. They’re not very happy when she’s on the scene after Pandora Blake is murdered at San Francisco’s 1940 World’s Fair. And, she’s not happy when she’s fired from the lucrative job protecting Sally Rand’s girls at the fair. The police don’t want her calling attention to the murder of a girl, with an Anti-Semitic word painted in blood on her body. It’s too late. When Miranda gets her teeth into a case, she doesn’t want to let go. And, it’s a case that angers her. When she arrives with a reporter friend at a synagogue to find it defaced with swastikas, and then another girl is found murdered under similar circumstances, Miranda fears the hate groups arising in the country have grown more brazen.
When a corrupt ex-cop is arrested for the murders, Miranda’s own lawyer agrees to defend him, hiring her to investigate. That’s the in Corbie needs, and it isn’t long before she has a few friendly police officers, as well as the reporter, and a couple street people working on her behalf. Fortunately, she has friends since she’s investigating two murders; trying to prove the innocence of Duggan, the cop; and someone is following her.
Stanley’s City of Secrets is a gripping, powerful story on so many levels. It’s a murder mystery. It’s the story of Miranda Corbie, a damaged soul, damaged by her history; her childhood, the loss of her lover in the Spanish Civil War, her job as an escort. Miranda is damaged, but she’s a strong woman, making it in a man’s world, in a man’s job, on her own terms. Some respect her for it, while others can’t understand a hard-drinking, cigarette smoking woman who uses men for her own purposes.
And, it’s the story of a world on the verge of world war, a world filled with hatred. Miranda recognizes the hate groups, the Silver Shirts, the German-American Bund, and a local group, the Musketeers, a group that, under the guise of a businessman’s group, is made of isolationists and so-called patriots. It’s a scary story of “Solid, middle-class America. Contributing five and ten dollars a month to Father Coughlin and his band of Social Justice. Men who swear by Henry Ford and The Protocols of an Elder of Zion, railing against Hollywood and Harry Hopkins and how the WPA is full of pansies and Reds."
Kelli Stanley masterfully brings all those elements together in a mystery that foreshadows World War II, but, in so many ways, foreshadows today’s world. It takes a gift to create a detective who can walk the dark streets of her own time, while frightening us with our own dark streets. City of Secrets is Kelli Stanley's gift to readers who appreciate history, mystery, and truth.
Kelli Stanley's website is www.KelliStanley.com
City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312603618 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy, hoping I'd review it.