It's 1998 and Ella Gilbert has left her husband after she finds him having sex with a prostitute. She's moving into an apartment on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, a place she'll be able to create a new life for herself. On her first day there, she meets Hector, a musician and the building handyman of sorts and she's drawn to him just as she's drawn to the building. He warns her not to go down to the laundry room after dark but she forgets his warning when she remembers that she's forgotten her laundry down there. Strange and alluring noises come from behind the wall and she wants to go investigate.
Flip to the 1920s. Geneva Rose Kelly, more familiarly known as Gin, is a flapper. Typist by day, she flirts with her wealthy college boyfriend in speakeasies by night, especially the speakeasy on Christopher Street. After a raid on said speakeasy, Gin ends up talking to Oliver Anson, a Prohibition agent who wants her help bringing down her step father, the man who has become one of the biggest bootleggers and distributors on the East Coast. Reluctant to help Anson, but just as reluctant to turn on her abusive, lecherous step father, Gin ends up entangled in the whole thing whether she wants to be or not.
The narrative shifts back and forth between Ella and Gin's presents although the 1920s is more fleshed out than the late 1990s and Gin tells her own story in first person while Ella's is a more distant third person narrative. Gin's story is the more compelling and dynamic one (as is she as a character, sassy creature that she is) so the imbalance works. Williams does a good job evoking the language of the 1920s and subtly changing Gin's language depending on whether she's in NYC or Appalachia. Clearly Ella and Gin are women of two different time periods although both are learning strength, determination, and independence after having fled from their first lives.
As the tie between Ella and Gin starts to come clearer, the pace of both narratives picks up steam. Williams' careful readers will recognize the Marshalls and the Schuylers from previous books and while the new reader isn't missing too much not knowing them yet, the connection makes the story just that tiny bit richer. There is a small paranormal element but it only pertains to Ella's narrative thread and doesn't overwhelm the otherwise straight realism. There are a few unresolved but important plot lines, including the questions of Gin's biological father and Ella's find in her role as a forensic accountant that could have been pursued a bit further. Maybe in a future book? But the dichotomy of Duke Kelly's murderousness and his benevolence towards the small town in which he lives is intriguing and terrible and the truth about Gin and Anson is captivating enough to carry the novel. This is a rollicking good read with heart pounding action, murder, deception, and lies. Williams' devoted fans will be delighted by it, historical fiction fans will thrill to it, and readers who enjoy nothing more than a good tale will be pleased to have found another novel that feeds their need so well.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book to review.