City of Dragons
Minotaur, Feb 2010, $
In 1940 San Francisco, the Chinese are very much aware of what the Japanese are doing to their homeland. In a relief effort, leaders are putting on a Rice Bowl party to send aid to the beleaguered Chinese back home. Thirty-three year old private investigator Miranda Corbie is in Chinatown enjoying the gala when she sees a man lying in the street; she goes to help him, but is too late as he was shot to death.
She learns the name of the victim is Eddie Takahashi and she intends to identify his killer. Although Miranda works hard on the case on spite of the police wanting it closed due to international implications, she makes little progress. Meanwhile the private investigator takes on another case; that of Helen Winters who wants to know whether her recently deceased husband allegedly died from a heart attack as the cops insist or murder as she believes. Corbie soon finds the last thing she expected, a link between her two inquiries through drug trafficking, but though obstinate and intrepid, she knows she will uncover the identity of the killer, but could do so as the third victim.
This is a dark gritty historical female Noir starring a woman who is trying to make a life for herself following the death of her beloved in the Spanish Civil War (described in flashbacks by Corbie who was there too). Whereas the two crimes mirror what is happening in China with the Japanese invasion, readers will thoroughly enjoy this fabulous historical mystery especially those who appreciate a strong sense of the era even if at times Corbie’s Noir voice feels too Chandlerish.