City of Dragons

Written by Kelli Stanley
Review by Helene Williams

Readers searching for a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, smart-mouthing female version of the classic Sam Spade private detective need look no further than Stanley’s debut crime thriller – Miranda Corbie fits the bill completely.

On the eve of World War II, this former escort service professional is now making her living in San Francisco as a private investigator, complete with license, gun, and good looks. After a young Japanese boy collapses onto her during a Chinatown parade, fatally shot by an unknown assailant, Miranda finds that the police don’t want to look into the incident, the neighborhood gangs won’t talk about it, and even his family is hiding something. In spite of multiple warnings, Miranda is driven to investigate, and every step takes her deeper into the city, gang, and international politics of the time. Of course she has allies along the way, including Inspector Gonzales of the SFPD and Rick Sanders, writer for the San Francisco News. She’s also accompanied by the ghost of her lover, Johnny, a reporter who died while covering the Spanish Civil War several years earlier.

Although the cigarette-after-cigarette description (Chesterfields, please) gets quite old, as does the flood of liquor, Stanley does a great job of putting the reader in pre-WWII San Francisco: the fog, the cars (cable and auto), and the clothes are all right on target, and her tying together international incidents with local events is well done. This reader looks forward to learning more about Miranda Corbie’s secrets and skills in future volumes.