Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062405029
Hardcover, $26.99, 384 pages
The first thing you notice about Beatriz Williams' new novel, The Wicked City, is its striking cover. A woman wearing a vibrant red dress dress under a red umbrella, walking in what looks like 1920's Times Square in New York (the cars are the key clue to the time frame).
Immediately a reader would pick this book up off a shelf to check it out. Reading the back cover, you discover that a character from Williams' last novel A Certain Age, society maven Theresa Marshall's son Billy, has a role in this novel.
One of Williams' strengths in her novels is the connection between characters in her previous books. The Schulyer family has been prominent in several of her most recent books- One Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Along The Infinite Sea, and The Forgotten Room- and they have a role here as well.
The story begins in 1998 with Ella Hawthorne moving into an apartment at 11 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in New York City. She has just left her husband after finding him cheating on her. Her lifestyle takes a dramatic turn, from living in a gorgeous condo to moving into a tiny apartment in a small, older building.
She meets an intriguing (and handsome) man, Hector, in the laundry room basement, who gives her the lowdown on the building and its tenants. She hears music coming from the the other side of the wall, from the building next door. Hector tells her that it used to be a speakeasy, back in the days of Prohibition.
And then the story takes a turn to the 1920's where we meet Gin Kelly, a real-life flapper, who spends her time at the speakeasy drinking illegal alcohol after working at her job as a typist at Sterling & Bates. Gin is a real dame, the kind of woman Barbara Stanwyck would have played in a the movies.
Gin is dating young rich college boy Billy Marshall, who has fallen hard for her and wants to marry her. She is also being pursued by Anson, a federal Prohibition agent who is leaning on Gin to help him shut down the flow of illegal moonshine, coming from the man Gin ran away from- her stepfather, who has become a powerful alcohol distributor in Maryland.
Gin's story intrigued me more than Ella's did, perhaps because there was more physical action and more of a sense of danger. There is a powerful scene near the end of the story that had me at the edge of my seat, with Gin and Billy and Anson and Gin's stepfather; it was incredibly harrowing.
Beatriz Williams' writes characters you care about, and her ear for the 1920's dialogue felt very much like watching an old movie on TCM and even put me in mind of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, the Prohibition-set TV series.
She is also very clever at weaving her characters' stories and histories together, and their connection to the Schuyler family gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling seeing some of my old friends again. If you are a fan of Williams' previous novels, The Wicked City is a must-read, and if you haven't yet read any of her books, this is a good one to start with; I guarantee you will be running to grab her previous novels to catch up with what you have missed.
Beatriz Williams' website is here (with a handy family tree for the Schuyler family!)
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Beatriz' Williams tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Tuesday, January 17th: Girls Just Reading
Wednesday, January 18th: bookchickdi
Thursday, January 19th: West Metro Mommy
Friday, January 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, January 23rd: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, January 24th: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, January 26th: 5 Minutes For Books
Friday, January 27th: BookNAround
Monday, January 30th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, January 31st: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, February 1st: Literary Lindsey
Thursday, February 2nd: The Book Date
Thursday, February 2nd: Reading Reality
Friday, February 3rd: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, February 6th: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, February 7th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading to Distraction
Thursday, February 9th: A Bookish Affair
Friday, February 10th: Life By Kristen
Friday, February 10th: Library of Clean Reads