Tuesday, August 05, 2014

City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley

City of Ghosts is the perfect title for Kelli Stanley's latest Miranda Corbie mystery. The private
investigator is haunted by her past, scarred by death and violence, by the victims she's known and the losses in her life. And, the second main character in this book, the city of San Francisco itself, is haunted by its own past, the violence, the death and betrayal, the victims, the secrets in its past. It's a kindred spirit to Miranda, who recognizes it as home.

In 1940, Miranda is searching for answers to her own past. When she receives a card from the mother she never knew, Catherine Corbie, indicating she's in England as the country prepares for war, she hunts for answers, and a way to reach her mother. And, a few jobs will help her pay her way to England, if she can get there on a ship that the Nazis won't torpedo. There's that one retrieving a jade necklace stolen by a socialite's drug-addicted son. And, when she finishes that, there's a job with no background, a well-paying job for a secretive State Department. Check out a chemistry professor who seems very interested in art, Mexico, and Nazis. It's a dangerous world for anyone, but a beautiful woman may be able infiltrate that world. Oh, and there might be a ticket to England in the bargain. She's warned not to trust anyone. But, that didn't prepare her for a trail of murder, including murder of a client and a friend. It didn't prepare her to be the number one suspect, with her name blared across the tabloids.

Once again, Kelli Stanley brings historic San Francisco to life in all its beauty and grit. Every detail is pitch-perfect in this atmospheric novel; the pre-war atmosphere, the tension, the crime. Stanley beautifully captures the uneasiness in the country, the feeling of unrest.  And, then she gives us Miranda Corbie, a character as gritty as the city itself, with a disreputable past to match. And, both the city and Miranda have memories that spur them on. 

Miranda can be dogged, unforgiving, and determined when it comes to finding answers. And, sometimes those memories hurt, forcing her to push away those who love her. Her determination, her need to find answers for the victims she knows is summarized beautifully. "Catherine Corbie would have to wait, but she'd waited almost thirty years already. Two clients, two murders, one of a friend. A job for the government mixing spies and art, Nazis and Mexico, chemistry and killers. She'd be alone...but Miranda was used to that."

If you want to understand pre-war America, the looting of Europe's art treasures, San Francisco's history, or the story of a strong, gritty woman, a woman with a past, and a city with a past, Kelli Stanley's City of Ghosts is a must-read.

Kelli Stanley lives in the city she loves, San Francisco, and shares her inspiration and sources at www.kellistanley.com.

City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250006745 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Libby Dodd said...

My first thought after reading your review was, "Wow."

Beth Hoffman said...

Excellent review, Lesa. I have this book on my "to buy" list.

Lesa said...

I hope that's a good "Wow", Libby.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. A powerful book. Disturbing and powerful.