Summary and book reviews of City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley

City of Dragons

By Kelli Stanley

City of Dragons
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2010,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

February, 1940. In San Francisco's Chinatown, fireworks explode as the city celebrates Chinese New Year with a Rice Bowl Party, a three day-and-night carnival designed to raise money and support for China war relief. Miranda Corbie is a 33-year-old private investigator who stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops acquiesce. All Miranda wants is justice - whatever it costs. From Chinatown tenements, to a tattered tailor's shop in Little Osaka, to a high-class bordello draped in Southern Gothic, she shakes down the city - her city - seeking the truth. An outstanding series debut.

One

Miranda didn’t hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk. The firecrackers were too loud, punctuating the blaring Sousa band up Stockton. Red string snapped and danced from a corner of a chop suey house on Grant, puffs of gray smoke drifting over the crowd. No cry for help, no whimper.

Chinese New Year and the Rice Bowl Party, one big carnival, the City that Knows How to Have a Good Time choking Grant and Sacramento. Bush Street blocked, along with her way home to the apartment. Everybody not in an iron lung was drifting to Chinatown, some for the charity, most for the sideshow.

Help the Chinese fight Japan—put a dollar in the Rice Bowl, feed starving, war-torn China. Buy me a drink, sister, it’s Chinese New Year. Don’t remember who they’re fighting, sister, they all look alike to me.

Somewhere above her a window opened, and a scratchy recording of “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” fought its way out. Miranda knelt down next to the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is one of those books that one needs to read for its entertainment value alone, turning a blind eye to its literary faults. This is the first book in what will likely become a popular series, and, despite its flaws, I find myself looking forward to the next installment.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
San Fransicso Chronicle

[A] terrific time-machine trip into the Bay Area's pre-Pearl Harbor past... City of Dragons, with its brittle patter and its broken heart of gold, is a joy to read

Kirkus Reviews

Sometimes Stanley seems too enamored of her settings and her neo-noir voice, but for fans of Hammett and Chandler, she'll hit the sweet spot.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in San Francisco in 1940, Stanley's stunning first in a new series introduces a gutsy, independent heroine who isn't always likable.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Miranda Corbie has the potential to be a great series character. Think Barbara Stanwick meets Myrna Loy, then toss in a hard-boiled crime story worthy of Raymond Chandler.

Booklist - Barbara Bibel

Starred Review. [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 hard-boiled series.

Author Blurb Lee Child
Beautifully imagined and beautifully written--this book does everything great fiction is supposed to.

Author Blurb Robert B. Parker
A stunning recreation of time and place that I greatly enjoyed...as will everyone who reads it.

Author Blurb George Pelecanos
Big and ambitious, both reverent and original. Author Kelli Stanley has her eye on greatness.

Author Blurb Linda Fairstein
A powerful crime novel that perfectly captures the noir mood of San Francisco in the 40's. Stanley's dialogue bristles with attitude, the atmosphere is thick as the bay fog, and her protagonist is a great new dame in crime fiction. A smart, stunning thriller.

Reader Reviews
Carrol Ann Smith

Pure Fun
I stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish City of Dragons the first time I read it and enjoyed it so much I have already read it again, something I have never done before. Kelli Stanley paints such vivid word pictures of 40s San Francisco ...   Read More

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Hard-boiled vs. Noir

Hard-boiled fiction arose in the United States in the aftermath of WWI, and gained popularity and refinement in the years leading up to WWII. The popular genre was a direct reflection of the pessimism, uncertainty and disillusionment sweeping the country in the wake of gangster-driven crime, political scandal and economic crisis, and marked a decidedly American departure from the classic whodunit formula.

Fiction magazines proliferated in the 1920's and one in particular, Black Mask, exclusively featured action-oriented detective stories. Founded in 1920 by H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, it included the early efforts of such writers as Carroll John Daly and Dashiell Hammett. Captain Joseph T. Shaw, who favored "economy of...

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