Saturday, September 11, 2010

City of Dragons

"She'd be alone, but Miranda was used to that."-Kelli Stanley, City of Dragons

I've spent a lot of time thinking about which book I would choose for my first review.  Authors all over the world waited with bated breath to see just who the lucky winner would be.  I mean, considering I already have three followers, a review by me could make or break a writer's career.  But I digress.

The book I chose is City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley.  The book, set in San Francisco 1940 is a PI Noir novel.  Unlike classics such as The Maltese Falcon, the protagonist and femme fatale are one and the same in heroine Miranda Corbie. Miranda is a private investigator and a former escort with a past riddled with loss and disappointment. Despite her hardships, Miranda dusts herself off and manages to rise above her misfortunes albeit with a hardened view of the world.

I became aware of City of Dragons by pure coincidence.  My parents were vacationing in Arizona and were visiting the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale on the same day Stanley was signing the newly released novel.  My love for the Golden Era prompted my parents to buy me a signed copy and Stanley was incredibly gracious to my mom and dad and expressed an interest in me writing to her should I ever need advice about writing myself.

I tore through the book in about three days and quickly set about contacting Ms. Stanley to tell her how much I enjoyed the book.  She is a truly wonderful person and was so humble about being praised for her writing.  The two of us correspond every now and then and she is someone who I think is going to be very successful in this business.

OK, onto the review.  City of Dragons opens amidst a Rice Bowl Party celebrating the Chinese New Year.  Miranda, who has been observing the festivities, soon finds herself cradling the wounded body of Eddie Takahashi, a Japanese teenager.  A gunshot wound proves fatal to the young Takahashi and Miranda will be damned if she's going to let the murder go unsolved.  You have to remember that at this time Americans weren't looking too kindly on the immigrants arriving from the Land of the Rising Sun.  San Francisco police would have been all to eager to sweep the murder under the rug.  Unfortunately for them, they have Miranda to deal with.

What made me fall in love with this book is Miranda herself.  Despite a somewhat questionable past, she's a good and moral person who seeks justice and works to break down racial barriers.  She comes across as a hard-boiled individual with a Chesterfield hanging from her lips, rye on her breath, and a pistol in her purse.  But you can't help but be mesmerized by her.  Stanley creates such a vivid character in Miranda that I found myself thinking about her even when I wasn't reading the book.

Not only is Stanley a terrific writer in terms of character development, the language of City of Dragons is every bit as beautiful as Miranda herself.  The prose are poetic and the careful attention to detail sends me back into a world I will never know...but would give anything to experience.

Anyone interested in detective novels, the 1940s, or sexy redheads with guns should pick up a copy of City of Dragons.  The book has been successful enough that Stanley recently finished writing a sequel.  A prequel to City of Dragons titled Children's Day can be found in the book First Thrills which features a number of short stories by mystery writers.  In addition, Stanley has another novel, Nox Dormienda, which will be getting its own sequel in February of next year.  The books are set in London 83 A.D. and have been dubbed as "Roman Noir" novels.  The unusual eras Stanely writes about not only speak to her creativity but also to her intelligence.

Well, that's all for now.  Be sure to check out City of Dragons and have the makings for a Singapore Sling on hand when you do.  I know I'm looking forward to more adventures with Miranda in San Francisco 1940.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh darnit, Patrick. Now I have another audiobook to get my hands on!