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City of Secrets [Hardcover]

Kelli Stanley

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011 A Miranda Corbie Mystery (Book 2)
Miranda Corbie is back in this sequel to City of Dragons. "Impressive...Stanley's hard-boiled, strong female sleuth stalks Hammett's San Francisco and does the job with all the panache of Sam Spade. Readers will eagerly await the next installment in this exciting new series." --Booklist (starred)

When Pandora Blake is murdered at San Francisco's 1940 World Fair and her body marked with an anti-Semitic slur, Miranda is soon entangled in a web of deceit and betrayal that is only overshadowed by the threat of impending war. With a strong female protagonist more steel than silk and a mystery that will grip you until the last page, this sequel to the critically-acclaimed City of Dragons will appeal to fans of noir and historical mysteries.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (Sept. 13 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312603614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312603618
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,819,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The historical details shine in this perfectly drawn mystery.... This shows how historical mystery can not only re-create the sights but also the atmosphere of the time."
--RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!)
 
"Stanley's brittle prose and period touches effectively capture the feeling of ’40s noir."
--Kirkus Reviews
 
"In best pulp fiction style, suspects lounge about with slick hair and cheap suits, blondes are chain-smoking broads, and the nightclubs are smoky and languid."
--Publishers Weekly
 
"Engrossing.... Stanley brings 1940s San Francisco to life with her meticulously detailed, hard-boiled novel."
--Library Journal

About the Author

KELLI STANLEY is also the author of a critically acclaimed Roman Noir series. The first book in that series, Nox Dormienda, won the Bruce Alexander Award for best historical mystery. The second, The Curse-Maker, was also published by Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books. The first book in the Miranda Corbie series, City of Dragons, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also named one of the 2010 Top Ten Mystery Thrillers by Oline Cogdill and one of the Top Ten Best Fiction by Bay Area Authors by the San Francisco Chronicle. Kelli lives in San Francisco, California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is the backdrop of the story and the characters that form the raison d'être to read and savor the novel from beginning to end Nov. 2 2011
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
CITY OF SECRETS is the second of Kelli Stanley's award-winning Miranda Corbie novels, which begins within a few months after CITY OF DRAGONS ends. It is still 1940, the setting is still San Francisco, and there is yet another celebration taking place: the beginning of the second season of the Golden Gate International Exposition. Be warned: when you open the book and begin reading the first page, you are leaving the 21st century and wherever you happen to be behind. By page nine, you will be so thoroughly immersed in the San Francisco of the mid-20th century that your contemporary surroundings will seem to be the product of an inferior imagination.

Stanley's imagination, on the other hand, is anything but inferior. She conjures up a time far removed from our own and a place that was once real and is forever exotic. Her characters, from her tough-as-nails heroine to her villains and victims, are twisted archetypes, by turns readily identifiable as such and not so much, easily recognizable but never predictable. This is perhaps most true of Corbie, an escort turned private investigator, who would seem too tough to love without risk until she reveals, however momentarily and rarely, a haunting fragility that stays with the reader long after the tale is told.

So it is that Corbie, who is at times barely making ends meet in her new profession, finds herself compelled to once again take on a case pro bono that the powers-that-be want her as far away from as possible. Page one kicks off with a dead body, that of a model named Pandora Blake, who has been murdered and left with an anti-Semitic slur written in her own blood. Corbie is on the case immediately and is just as abruptly removed from it; she cannot let go of it, however, and when another woman of similar circumstances is found in...well, similar circumstances, Corbie investigates even more tenaciously.

Anti-Semitism was the rule rather than the exception at that time; Hitler and Stalin seemed to be in competition as to who could eradicate the Jewish people first. The United States was still on the sidelines of World War II, and many questioned the wisdom of intervening to stop the Holocaust; some resented and blamed the victims for the fact that the issue was even being raised.

So it is that Corbie follows a twisted trail that begins at a defaced Jewish synagogue, and twists and turns its way through the dark streets of the lower end of San Francisco, where tourists venture looking for thrills they won't find at home, then unexpectedly to a section of the Napa Valley that the out-of-towners don't even know exists. Along the way, Corbie discovers that, as wicked as the motivation behind the deaths of two young women may have been, a far worse act is planned, one that Corbie may not have enough power or time to stop. She is also subjected to an unexpected revelation that undoubtedly will have repercussions for future installments of the series.

As interesting and as original as the mystery that forms the heart of CITY OF SECRETS is, it is the backdrop of the story --- San Francisco in the year 1940 --- and the characters that form the raison d'être to read and savor the novel from beginning to end. There is no detail to escape Stanley's notice, and the descriptive power of her prose is such that you will find yourself --- as I did --- with a well-marked and underlined book by story's end. If Stanley can find the time and pursue the inclination, I would love to have her write a travel guide of San Francisco from the perspective of the year 1940. Until that might happen, though, CITY OF SECRETS is a more than suitable magic carpet to take you there.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost like being there! Oct. 18 2011
By Tulugaq - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Miranda Corbie comes to life again in Kelli Stanley's second "City of..." novel. Gorgeous, tough-minded (and tough-skinned) Miranda solves two murders and exposes an anti-Semitic eugenics ring (sounds extreme, but Stanley makes it believable) in 1940 San Francisco. Once again, she brings to life the Golden Gate International Exposition in all its tawdry excitement -- indeed, the period detail is incredibly vivid, placing the reader right THERE as Miranda runs all over the Bay area. An exciting and fascinating read, guaranteed to leave you breathless!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blast-from-the-past March 5 2012
By Mark P. Sadler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's a man's world. San Francisco in the 1940s. No place for a dame. Yeah, don't tell that to Stanley's hard-boiled female PI, Miranda Corbie, fedora and all.
Two girls are dead, stabbed and left with the word `kike' drawn on their naked body with their own blood. Europe is at war and some factions in the States are dealing with their own anti-Semitic problems. Aryans in America. In this second of a series, following "City of Dragons," Stanley's noir masterpiece takes us into a dark realm of the American historical novel.
With a short, staccato beat, resounding like bullets launched from gangster's machine gun we are led into the world of Miranda Corbie, ex-escort, detective to the stars in the underbelly of the Gayway at The Golden Gate International Exposition of 1940. Corbie breathes in every tune from every juke joint in town, scouring the city with help from a local rag reporter and her Jewish attorney, as they battle to locate evidence to reverse a charge that has led the police to send one of their own to Riker's on a trumped up charge.
Running from an Italian mob boss looking to cut short her charmed life, and one-step ahead of a malevolent police force, Corbie unearths the Nazi's in the backwoods town of Calistoga, just north of town. Lead by an evil dentist, a group of professionals is doing their part to sterilize young Jewish women, by using the guise of abortion clinics.
This book is a blast-from-the-past as Stanley liberally intersperses name brands, musicians, and gangsters from long ago that brings to mind the Humphrey Bogart or Ava Gardner era we have witnessed in the movies. Recently nominated for a Golden Nugget, a special award to be given to the best mystery set in California, I hope this goes on to even more recognition for this very special author.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir at Its Best Nov. 30 2011
By Judith Starkston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kelli Stanley has come out with the second in her Miranda Corbie mystery series set in San Francisco in the 30's and 40's--this time someone's killing Jewish women, women whose place on the edges of society makes them particularly vulnerable. No one's going to step up and bring them justice--or so the powers that be hope. They didn't count on Miranda.

Previously I've reviewed Kelli's Roman series, which I love (Nox Dormienda and The Cursemaker), but City of Dragons and now City of Secrets are just as compelling. Kelli is a rising star in the world of mystery authors: Nox won the Bruce Alexander Award, City of Dragons was an LA Times Book Prize Finalist and, most impressively, the Macavity Award Winner for the Best Historical Mystery of 2010. Her tough, noir style, brings us multi-layered characters, fast-paced unpredictable action and a setting that makes you feel like surely your armchair has been transported to San Francisco at that intriguingly rough period at the very end of the 30's.

If somehow you haven't made Miranda's acquaintance yet, you have a double delight ahead. For those of you who read City of Dragons, your next fix is available.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too much Hammett... Oct. 12 2011
By Quixote010 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kelli Stanley has put a lot of what I like into her Miranda Corbie series: a little history, a great location, reallistic characters, a nice mystery, believable situations.... What's not to like?

Although I haven't read her first book (City of Dragons), I certainly get a sense of her trend and was glad she didn't tell me so much about it in City of Secrets that that she could have ruined it for me to go back and pick it up.

There's much in this book that kept me reading it. Miranda is a struggling, hard-nosed private eye in a man's world who refuses to accept limitations, but knows she has to play by the rules of the game. She's not beyond using her feminine skills to get the information she needs, but she is aggressive enough to take on a male counterpart if necessary. When she discovers a murdered Jewish working girl at the 1939 World's Fair, her work ethic and concern with international events commits here to figuring out who and why the girl was killed. Naturally Nazi Germans and anti-Semitism is the focus of this story.

If there is one thing that bothers me, though, it's the almost over-the-top effort to mimic the style of Dashell Hammett. In the firt five chapters, Mirana lights up no less than 20 cigarettes and deposits them in a variety of containers that Stanley often describes in details. Don't misunderstand...my parents were hardcore smokers of the 1940s, but Ms. Stanley refers to it almost to a point of irritation. Readers will also discover other instances where there is no question that she wants to capture the Hammett noir style...which she does quite well, but I wish she would have leveled off of it bit. All in all, a good series.

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