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City of Dragons Hardcover – February 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312603606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312603601
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,197,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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. As the city celebrates the Chinese New Year with the Rice Bowl Party, a three-day carnival to raise money for China's war relief, PI Miranda Corbie sees Eddie Takahashi, a young Japanese numbers runner, shot dead in front of her on a crowded, fireworks-filled Chinatown street. When the police tell her to forget about Takahashi (Chalk him up to Nanking), the outraged Miranda decides to seek justice on her own. In her quest for Takahashi's killer, she encounters racism and sexism at nearly every turn. A former escort who's reinvented herself as a detective, the 33-year-old Miranda isn't taken seriously by the cops, who enjoy rehashing her past. Stanley (Nox Dormienda) aptly describes San Francisco as a city redolent and glistening with sin and lamplight, forever a girl you didn't take home to Mother. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Kelli Stanley’s impressive new mystery takes readers back to the San Francisco of 1940. It is Chinese New Year, and the three-day Rice Bowl Party is in full swing. Miranda Corbie, a young private investigator, is enjoying the festivities when she stumbles upon the body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants the murder covered up, and the police are happy to forget it, but Miranda wants justice. Her quest takes her through Chinatown’s tenements and herb shops to a tailor in Little Osaka and a high-class bordello. Chain-smoking Chesterfields all the while, Kellie tries to get information from both hoods and cops. Stanley has vividly re-created the atmosphere of the era, using authentic San Francisco landmarks and the Golden Gate International Exposition as background. Her 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. Recommend this one to fans of Denise Hamilton’s The Last Embrace (2008), starring a female sleuth in postwar Los Angeles. --Barbara Bibel

More About the Author

An award-winning author of crime fiction, Kelli Stanley's first novel in the Miranda Corbie series, CITY OF DRAGONS, was met with overwhelming critical acclaim. It won the Macavity Award (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award) and was a finalist for the prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Shamus Award. CITY OF SECRETS, her second novel in the series, won the Golden Nugget Award for best mystery set in California. CITY OF GHOSTS--the long-awaited third Miranda Corbie book--will be published August 5th, 2014.

Stanley also writes a highly-praised series set in Roman Britain, the latest of which is THE CURSE-MAKER. Her debut novel, NOX DORMIENDA, won the Bruce Alexander Award for best historical mystery of 2008.

She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco, earned a Master's Degree in Classics, and loves jazz, old movies, fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies.

For more information about Kelli's books, please visit her website at


June, 1940.

Art. Spies. Murder.

For Miranda Corbie, private investigator and erstwhile escort, there are debts to be paid and memories-long-suppressed and willfully forgotten-to be resurrected.

Enter the U.S. State Department and the man who helped her get her license. A man she owes. And playing along may get her a ticket to Blitz-bombed England, if she survives ...

Through sordid back alleys and art gallery halls, from drag dress nightclubs to a Nazi costume ball, Miranda's journey into fear takes her on the famed City of San Francisco streamliner and a ticket to Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World ... where she finds herself framed for a murder she never anticipated.

Miranda must learn the difference between reality and illusion, from despair to deceit and factual to fake, as she tries to get her life back ... and navigates a CITY OF GHOSTS.

Miranda's back. And noir will never be the same.

Customer Reviews

I really struggled to read and finish this book.
shirley lieb
Author Kelli Stanley has a great interest in the 1930s and '40s and is steeped in noir films and novels.
Linda Bulger
There are also way too many characters, most of whom are one-dimensional.
Dave Schwinghammer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Corin on February 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Before I picked up Kelli Stanley's novel, I had never been to San Francisco and the only Chinatown I knew lay on Canal Street in New York City. Now that I've finished Kelli Stanley's novel, I feel as if I've been given a tour by the most sly and masterful of guides. That this tour took place in 1940 only made the experience stranger, richer, and all the more fabulous.

The tour began with a drop-in on a Chinatown murder as witnessed by Miranda Corbie, a private investigator so hard-boiled she makes the Pinkertons look like scrambled eggs. But was even she steely enough to navigate the mobster politics of 1940s Chinatown, itself a violent microcosm of war-torn 1940s East Asia? It was such a pleasure going on this vibrant journey with her, watching her mettle be tested and watching the puzzle pieces be slowly assembled, all in an effort to solve a mysterious murder the police didn't want her to solve.

And I've not even mentioned some of the memorable minor characters met along the way. In true noir fashion, they were both larger-than-life and almost always duplicitous. Take, for example, the son of an herbalist, who...but that would be telling. And then there were the allies, such as Inspector Gonzales, whose chivalrous nature and...well, you'll see.

And I haven't even started on the pristine prose, not a sentence wasted, not a landmark ignored, not a flavor left untasted. I've now been to 1940s San Francisco, and I long to return.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.

Harriet Klausner
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Koch VINE VOICE on February 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The year is 1940 in San Francisco.

Private investigator Miranda Corbie is attending the Rice Bowl in Chinatown. It is an event that celebrates the Chinese New Year. While attending, Miranda stumbles upon a body. The victim is identified as Eddie Takahashi. He was no good. The cops don't really have an interest in the case and close it. Miranda is the only one, who is out to seek the truth about Eddie's murder. Miranda better watch her back as the police may not be interested but someone is and they don't like Miranda sticking her nose in places where it doesn't belong.

City of Dragons is a really good book. I started this book right before bed, which was a bad idea as I couldn't stop reading it. Miranda is a hard core, nose to the grind, blood hound, who doesn't give up till the case is solved. There were plenty of twists and turns to keep the mystery fan in my happy. All of the characters that Miranda encountered were intriguing as well as engaging. You could tell how much research and hard work the author did on Chinatown and what the place looked like back in the forties. It was like I could see everything through Miranda's eyes from...the vivid colors of the buildings to the smell of rotten beer and cigarettes. I only have one last comment to make and that is...I want more Kelli Stanley.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brkat on August 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I imagine that a book may strike a different chord for different readers. For me, "City of Dragons" was an interesting read but not a compelling one. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a while I enjoyed the local flavor of the SF setting in the 1940's. I could actually see and feel the streets that protagonist Miranda Corbie walked. However, the case of Eddie Takahashi's murder and the mysterious secondary case it was tied to never really hooked me. It didn't spark any tension or the need for me to keep on reading to find out what comes next. Perhaps it was author Kelli Stanley's over-wrought descriptions of SF and Miranda's personal habits that slowed the pace of the storyline. Or perhaps it was just that I couldn't identify with the Miranda character who I found to be somewhat disagreeable. In any event, "City of Dragons" was still a good read but one that I had no trouble putting down for a while and picking back up later. Others seemed to have enjoyed this novel a lot so pick it up for yourself to see if it strikes the right chord for you.
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