The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams’ latest novel The Wicked City is another masterful piece of writing.

Synopsis of the plot from the publisher:

When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes their sleek SoHo loft for a studio in a quaint building in Greenwich Village. But her new refuge isn’t quite what it seems. Her charismatic musician neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement after midnight, when a symphony of mysterious noise strikes up—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano, the occasional bloodcurdling scream—even though it’s stood empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the building hosted one of the city’s most notorious speakeasies.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a quick-witted flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin lands in the office of Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather, Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.

Sired by a wealthy New York scion who abandoned her showgirl mother, Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, even though her on-again, off-again Princeton beau, Billy Marshall, wants to make an honest woman of her and heal the legacy of her hardscrabble childhood. Gin’s alliance with Anson rattles Manhattan society, exposing sins that shock even this free-spirited redhead—sins that echo from the canyons of Wall Street to the mountain hollers of her hometown.

As Ella unravels the strange history of the building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her incandescent predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her life in the wicked city. . .

Although Williams’ novels have a bit more sex than I like (any mention of it is a bit more than my preference not because of prudishness, but I like action more than sexual relationships), she spins an awesome story. The story is believable even if it has a dash of the supernatural. It is not boring or predictable.

The characters are well-developed and complex. Geneva is no angel, but she has a fairly good compass on right and wrong. She is witty and quick thinking even in the most trying of circumstances. She is extremely likable.

Regarding Ella, Williams portrays her as a scorned woman who gains strength from a new start in a new location. That strength only grows as she comes to acceptance of her new life.

Williams captures the nature and characteristics of people – the innocence and naiveté of Billy and the street smarts and toughness of Oliver.  Although Hector seems to be an open book, Williams includes little surprises about him until the very end.

Williams captures the era and the attitudes of women in the Roaring Twenties and today.

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