The Wicked City, by Beatriz Williams is a master-class in voice, so much so that it distracts the reader from the shortcomings of the plot.
This title stars Ginger (Gin) Kelly, a flapper in the 1920’s, who finds herself inside a spy thriller, helping to take down her comically evil bootlegger step-dad. And Ella, a woman scorned by the infidelity of her husband in a version of 1998 where everyone has a cell phone.
What a Voice! What a Star!
The highlight of this novel was, without-a-doubt, the voice. Each of our heroine’s had a distinct voice and tone to their narration. Ella was your typical third-person narrator, so it was Gin who set them apart.
I was blown away by Williams’ attention to Gin’s cadence and sentence structure. I felt throughout that Gin lived within Williams’ imagination and just poured out of her onto the page. Williams undoubtedly took great care with crafting this character, but it came across as effortless and natural.
Gin is the perfect heroine. She’s a strong woman who removed herself from a bad situation back home in rural Maryland and moved to NYC to live on her own terms. She has suitors and lovers, but she’s never the victim and she’s always the one who chooses who she will and will not sleep with as it fits her needs. She’s a hillbilly-turned-flapper-by-night-typist-by-day who holds her own when she’s thrust into a government plot to take down a dangerous bootlegger. Plus she’s an expert marksman who can shoot down an assailant in a speedboat, in case you didn’t like her enough.
My biggest grief with Gin’s story was how cartoonish her step-dad, Duke Kelly, was as a villain and how slow the action was to get started. This title far exceeds the 100-rule, but it is well worth the wait.
Ella’s story took off much faster than Gin’s, mostly likely because it’s so much shorter. I was more intrigued by Ella at the start because of this, but as the story wore on, I began to wonder why here character was even there. Sure, she lived in Gin’s old boarding house that coexisted alongside the ghostly echo of the noises of Gin’s old speakeasy. Sure she serves as a halfway attempt at a case for soulmates. But the connection between past and “present” were too thin and the supernatural elements were too tacked-on and out of place and read like a neat idea that Williams either didn’t bother to, or didn’t have the time to properly execute. In the end, Ella was just a woman who needed a man to help her pick up her pieces and would have been better left out. I could see what Williams was ultimately going for and I agree it was a neat idea, but the poor execution left me feeling cheated.
Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this title. Williams knows how to keep a reader hooked and is an impressive wordsmith. I would read Beatriz Williams again.
Get The Wicked City here!