Miranda Corbie is a San Francisco private investigator circa 1940. She smokes. She drinks. She plays hardball. She is a female Sam Spade. City Of Dragons begins on Chinese New Year. San Francisco is hosting a "Rice Bowl Party" to raise money for war relief in China. The tale starts with a bang: “Miranda didn’t hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk.”
Eddie Takahashi was a Japanese punk and a mobster-wanna-be. No one wants his death investigated. Miranda is warned off by the police and Italian and Japanese mobsters as well as her own friends. Despite it all, she remains determined to find Eddie's killer.
In true ‘shabby-Sherlock’ fashion, Miranda must continue to take other cases just to keep herself in cigarettes. A missing woman and a suspicious death both offer steady pay while she searches for justice. The three cases intersect, and Miranda soon finds herself being followed by sinister men and a succession of green automobiles, one of which tries to run her down. Stubbornly, she persists in the quest that leads her through Chinatown and down to the San Francisco docks.
Stanley's novel is well researched with vivid descriptions. If a restaurant is mentioned, it existed at the time and the characters have ordered something from the original menu. The book is also a nice take on classic noir mysteries. The plot is complex and layered. The action is intense.