Thursday, August 7, 2014

"City of Ghosts"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Stanley applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, City of Ghosts, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Miranda blinked, brown- green eyes focused on the blurred outline of Angel Island and Alcatraz.

No time to think about Spain, about Phyllis Winters. It was a little over four months since Eddie Takahashi’s murder, four months since she’d killed Martini, and only a few weeks since she’d run in the Napa woods, dogs baying, breath coming out in stabs, waiting for the men in white suits.

Waiting to kill herself.

She arched her neck, rubbing it with her right hand, and sat up against the seat, straightening her hat.

Twenty-five hundred dollars lay crisp and cool in her rusty Wells Fargo safe, payment for chasing a Nazi spy. Mrs. Hart lay colder on a slab in the morgue, dead client, dead victim, the priceless jade, funereal green, missing once again and presumably the motive.

And somewhere in England, last bulwark against the Dark Ages, was Catherine Corbie ... or at least a woman who knew enough about her to send a message.

Miranda carefully took the photo postcard of Westminster Abbey out of her purse and read it again:

Would like to meet you. Your loving mother.
City of Ghosts is about a lot of things … art and what it means to a culture, espionage in an America bracing for the war, solving a vicious murder, and whom or what (a nation, an authority figure, a news story) we can trust. Beyond these plots, themes and metaphors, however, City of Ghosts is a story about a woman trying to build her identity.

Miranda doesn’t define herself by the traditional roles of wife, mother, sister, daughter. That alone makes her a transgressive figure, especially in 1940. Relationships have only caused her pain; her father was an abusive alcoholic incapable of nurture and she lost the one great love of her life in the Spanish Civil War.

As a very young child, Miranda never had a chance to really know her mother—who, she believes, abandoned her. Abandonment manifests its own agony of rejection, but the adult Miranda took her mother’s name, not her father’s … a clue to how she has tried to reconstruct her own identity and just how crucial it is for her to find the woman who claims to be Catherine Corbie.

Finding her mother is finding herself … a life-long hero’s journey for Miranda Corbie, and her motivation for risking her life in a city of ghosts.
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

My Book, The Movie: City of Dragons.

My Book, the Movie: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue