REVIEW: Sinners of Starlight City by Anika Scott
From the author of the international bestseller The German Heiress, a gripping historical drama about a woman determined to avenge the crimes against her family, set at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
Vengeance is in the family, and the family is a bond like no other…
It’s the worst year of the Great Depression, and America needs all the hope it can get. The Chicago World’s Fair, a glittery city-within-a-city, becomes a symbol of the good that’s yet to come. But every utopia has a seedy side—and that’s Rosa Mancuso’s world. As the mysterious Madame Mystique she mixes magic with a dose of bare skin burlesque, bringing customers to the home of the Fair’s carnival rides and spectacles.
Rosa doesn’t perform for fame, though. She has come from Mussolini’s Italy to America, where she’s plotting her revenge for the murders of her family. The perpetrator will soon arrive at the World’s Fair via a celebrated Italian air fleet, and Rosa is determined to be prepared.
But when her estranged cousin, Mina, comes to her desperate for help, with a dangerous mobster close on her heels, Rosa agrees to protect Mina and her new baby, born across the color line. With the clock ticking, Rosa decides the only way to survive is to make vengeance a family affair and prompt everyone to, at last, confront the sins from their pasts.
A gripping story of retribution, belonging, and survival, Sinners of Starlight City boldly explores the complexity of identities straddling ethnic lines and asks, who gets to decide who we are and where we belong?
Dear Ms. Scott,
This is one riveting book. I inhaled it in long gulps and only came up for air when needs must, food beckoned, or my cats meowed loudly to be fed. It’s a type of story I love – when I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.
The blurb pretty much lays out the bare bones but you added the flesh and blood, the sinew and muscle. When things kicked off, I was a little bewildered. Separate threads are started and only slowly woven together. Information is carefully doled out but – yay – the dreaded info dumping was avoided. Readers need to just sit patiently and let things unfold as needed.
I’ll be honest and say that I had doubts about most of the characters along the way. Some are not nice and some are horrible. Some do terrible things while others know the truth about that and are content to accept this or look the other way. Only a very few come through to the end with flying colors. Why are so many awful things planned and done? Revenge in some cases. Power and control in others. La familia and honor are everything. Or nearly everything.
Rosa endured snubs and then loss after loss. As a mixed race child she knew the love of parents only to lose them. As a teen she had to flee for her life and then rebuild it before realizing that she could take revenge on the one responsible. Danny had to fight against parental abuse and grew up to be a man who “fixed” problems by whatever means. Tino and Sal Gallo … well, thugs will be thugs. Paolo’s actions can be laid at the feet of the facism sweeping Italy.
I enjoyed how strong the women are in the book. Rosa, Mina who won’t give in to her family’s demands, Fiammeta, who survived that terrible night along with Rosa, and the other women of the Oriental Fair who are seen as misfits by society but who stick together to face that. The other “found family” members are given their dignity and courage and allowed to stand up against the abuse and demands made on Rosa and Mina. The world at large might view these people as outcasts but together they are a family.
But how was it going to end? Could things be pulled off? Would Rosa get her revenge and Mina get her baby? Was Danny all bad? Would Rosa’s uncles uphold family honor? I was on the edge of my seat. When the blood congealed and the dust settled, I was satisfied. It wasn’t pretty but it all worked. So (mostly) morally gray and morally black characters in an intricate revenge plot set against a glimmering 1930s World’s Fair that was supposed to uplift people during a time of economic depression for the win. B+