Beatriz Williams: Oh, how you mess with your readers’ minds. Or at least my mind, because you had me so confused I didn’t know which way was up.
Back in 2017, Williams released Cocoa Beach, which is referred to as a “standalone novel,” meaning not part of one of her series. I reviewed that book here. I didn’t care for Cocoa Beach much, and was annoyed by the confusion created by references and ties to other of her books which readers may or may not have read. The author does this so often that she literally has a family tree available to readers to keep track of who is whom. But most annoyingly, she ended that book with reference to a redheaded woman and a man arriving at the home of the main characters, clearly in trouble. We are never told who they are or where they came from. Hello Sequel.
Well, if I had been paying attention, I would have recalled a redhead who escaped certain death at the end of another one of her novels, The Wicked City (a book I read but never reviewed).
Here it is, three years later, and we are able to access The Wicked Redhead, and finally tie the stories together. Interestingly, the publishers call The Wicked Redhead the second in “the Wicked City books,” never mentioning the standalone novel Cocoa Beach.
Having said all of that, I must admit that I liked The Wicked Redhead very much. Perhaps it was just because I could finally tie all of the stories together.
It’s 1924, and beautiful Ginger Kelly and her disgraced prohibition agent lover Oliver Anson Marshall arrive at the home of friends, running away from trouble and mayhem which left Gin’s evil stepfather dead. Accompanying them is Gin’s little sister Patsy. Mysteriously, Oliver is asked to return to his prohibition duties, leaving Gin and Patsy behind. It isn’t long before Gin is persuaded to undertake an odd duty by Oliver’s mother.
Meanwhile, it’s 1998, and Ella Dommerich (whom we met in The Wicked City) has discovered her husband is not only being unfaithful, but messing around with prostitutes. She leaves him, and quickly falls for her landlord Hector, whom we also met in that same book. She comes across some vintage postcards featuring a beautiful redheaded woman wearing little clothing. Having resigned her job, she has little to do, so begins researching this woman’s background.
It doesn’t take much imagination to tie the two stories together, but I will admit to being caught up in the process. Even though I find some of Williams’ tricks annoying, I will acknowledge that the woman can write a good yarn.
Some of the story is simply not believable, at least to this reader. Overall, however, I really enjoyed putting the pieces together.