Excerpt from City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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City of Dragons

by Kelli Stanley

City of Dragons
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 352 pages
    Aug 2011, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt

Color spread across his face, eyes dropping to her purse contents. Same story, new year. Same Phil. She readjusted herself in the hard wooden chair.

“Let’s get on with it.”

Hurt eyes, sad eyes, baggy, bloodshot, old. He took a piece of paper from the drawer, dipped the fountain pen.


“Don’t you have all that down? I’ve been sitting with Officer League of Decency for half an—”

“I’m the lieutenant. You’re the witness. Let’s keep it formal.”

She blew another smoke ring over her shoulder, watched it sail over the head of a uniform a few desks down.

“Miranda Corbie.”


“Auburn. Or red. Depends on the henna.”

“Answer the questions. Eyes?”


He looked up. “I thought they were . . .  yes. Hazel.”

She tapped some ash on the cheap metal ashtray. “They’re brown to me.”


“Five feet six inches. Without heels.”


“130, stripped.”


“Same as last year, except a year older. Thirty-three.”


“640 Mason Street, apartment number 405. No phone.”

He fished around the pile on the desk and pulled out a battered card. “Monadnock Building? With the Pinkertons?”

“Closet on the same floor. They sometimes throw me the small fry in return for Sally Rand tickets.”

“Good for you. For getting your own office, and moving out of Burnett’s.”

She shrugged again. “It was never much. Neither was Burnett.”

He busied himself with writing. “Phone at the offi ce is EXbrook—”

“—3333. Easy for clients to remember. I was lucky.”

The eyes came back to her. Like kids at a candy shop.

“They got your numbers memorized, Miri—at least their husbands do.”

She stubbed out the cigarette in the same spot on the desk and dropped it in the tray.

“Like I said, I’m lucky. C’mon, Phil, let me go home. It’ll be hell getting through—they’re expecting a hundred thousand tonight.”

He leaned back, scratched his neck. “So what happened?”

“I was on my way home from here. Had to ID a phony check pusher, who also happens to be a bigamist.”

He frowned. “You see Riordan?”

“Unfortunately. Tried to lick my face like a dog. I took a shortcut through Chinatown, forgetting about Rice Bowl, and got stuck on Sacramento between Grant and Waverly. About five o’clock, an hour before the street carnival, but still goddamn hard for anybody trying to get anywhere else. I saw this kid facedown on the street. Thought he was drunk, flipped him over, saw the exit wound, yelled for a doctor, and The Law shoved his way through with a nightstick. That’s it.”

“Eddie Takahashi. Sure you don’t know him?”

She shook her head. “Never seen him before. Got a record?”

His voice hesitated. “Small-time. Used to be a numbers runner for Filipino Charlie, here and down in South City. Family lived on the edge of Chinatown— until ’37.”

Miranda reached for her cigarette case again, opened it, grimaced, and shut it.

“You got a stick on you?”

He searched inside his coat pocket and pulled out a crumpled Old Gold package and a tarnished lighter. He lit one, his hand shaking when he took it out of his mouth and handed it to her. She inhaled, leaning back in the chair.

“Nanking changed a lot of things in this city, Phil. Suddenly every Japanese bayoneted babies.”

He passed a hand through his short gray hair, sweat starting to bead along his scalp. Kept his voice low.

Excerpted from City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley. Copyright © 2010 by Kelli Stanley. Published in February 2010 by Minotaur Books. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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