City of Secrets (Miranda Corbie Mysteries)
by Kelli Stanley
Review by Cathy Green
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312603618
Date: 13 September 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Miranda Corbie is back and as cynical as before. Whereas in City of Dragons, Miranda battled anti-Asian sentiment to solve the murder of a young Japanese-American man, in City Of Secrets she is battling anti-semitism.
City Of Secrets opens with Miranda acting as security for a show on Treasure Island, a regular paying gig she got through her friend Sally Rand. One of the dancers, Pandora Blake, has been killed. The murderer has written a derogatory term for Jews on the girl's chest in her own blood. Miranda can barely start her investigation before the money men behind the Fair summarily fire her due to concerns about bad publicity and more importantly about what Miranda might uncover. Of course, that just makes Miranda more determined than ever to investigate. Fortunately, a paying client turns up that allows her to continue the investigation. Unfortunately, the client is former police inspector Duggan, the cop who beat up Miranda in City Of Dragons. Miranda's lawyer Meyer Bialik is representing Duggan who is accused of killing Pandora Blake and another girl, Annie Learner, who Duggan had been seeing.
Miranda takes the case, despite her reservations about Duggan and soon learns of a series of anti-semitic attacks on synagogues in San Francisco. Is it related to her case? Could a group of Nazi sympathizers be behind the murders? Or are the murders about something else entirely? When Miranda goes back to Treasure Island to question some people, she gets shot. Was it because of the case or because there's a mob war brewing and one of the factions is not happy about the crimp she put in their plans in City Of Dragons. Is the case and the attack on Miranda personally motivated or is there a larger, more sinister agenda at play?
Along the way we learn more about what exactly happened to Miranda in Spain, events which would leave anyone shell-shocked. Also, we get more of Miranda's inner thoughts as they relate to her profession and being a woman in a man's world. Miranda's not as young as she used to be, and getting beat up on half her cases isn't helping things. Her bread and butter cases are investigating potentially unfaithful husbands for suspicious wives. When her looks go, she probably won't be able to handle those cases anymore, and then what? In addition, Kelli Stanley does a good job of placing Miranda's case in its historical context. Isolationist America of the 1930s was not a particularly nice place if you weren't a white anglo-saxon protestant or were perceived as "other" in any way. In particular, people's very public attitudes towards race and eugenics were very different than they are today.
Kelli Stanley has given us another exciting novel featuring Miranda Corbie. The City Of Secrets is not a direct sequel to City Of Dragons, so new readers can start with current novel with no problem.
Once again Stanley has created a fascinating historical mystery in which the city of San Francisco itself is a character. I look forward to seeing where she takes Miranda next.