Beatriz Williams’ The Wicked City is an ode to the Roaring 20s, full of glitz and glamour. It wasn’t my first book by Williams – a few years ago I tried, and failed, to read The Secret Life of Violet Grant, though I think that was my timing and not the book. I went into The Wicked City with an open mind and very little knowledge of either the Jazz Age or the book itself.
The Wicked City spans two timelines, though the majority of the story takes place in the past. I’m generally a fan of alternating stories, but only when they’re done well. I need to feel connected to both timelines, and both sets of characters. Williams managed to hook me well enough, but I wanted a lot more about Ella. She felt largely unimportant, strange, considering the opening chapters. Perhaps her main purpose was to provide context for Gin’s story, which is ok – but frankly, didn’t add much.
In addition to the differing timelines, The Wicked City also switches perspectives. Gin’s story is told in first person, Ella’s in third. While jarring at first, because there’s so little of Ella in the book I eventually got used to it. I think the switch works, though; by hearing Gin’s story in her own words, we’re more involved in it.
I loved the setting for The Wicked City, and love that we’re starting to see more of the Jazz Age in both literature and cinema. I think the early half of the 20th century is one that a lot of us don’t know enough about – which is crazy, considering we’re not that far removed from it! History classes typically skipped over the details and went straight to the big pieces like the Great Depression and World War I, but there’s a lot of rich history left to uncover. Factual or not, I enjoyed The Wicked City if for no other reason than it gave my imagination an excuse to run wild.
Paperback: 384 pages Published: December 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks (reprint)
Source: Publisher via TLC
The Wicked City
In the first book of a breathtaking new trilogy by bestselling author Beatriz Williams, two generations of women are brought together inside a Greenwich Village apartment —a flapper hiding an extraordinary past, and a modern-day Manattanite forced to start her life anew.
When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes her SoHo loft for a studio in Greenwich Village. 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 the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the basement was home to 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. 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 the biggest bootleggers in Appalachia.
But Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, and their alliance rattles Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead.
As Ella unravels the strange history of her new building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her exuberant predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her existence in the wicked city.
About Beatriz Williams
A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the chance to participate in this tour!