The first volume of Williams’ planned series introduces two women who occupy the same Greenwich Village apartment seven decades apart.
In a 1998 frame for the main Roaring ’20s story, Ella, a forensic accountant by trade, has just left her investment-banker husband after catching him with a prostitute. She moves into a studio apartment, 4D, at 11 Christopher St. One of her first encounters, in the basement laundry room, is with Hector, who shares her interests and her talent for music. In the same laundry room, late at night, Ella hears jazz riffs seeping through the wall—odd, because the adjacent building is unoccupied. Cut to 1924, when Ginger Kelly, a typist who fled her Appalachian village for New York after her stepfather sexually assaulted her, occupies the same building, in that era a boardinghouse, and the same flat. Ginger frequents the neighboring cellar speak-easy (which features a jazz band) and, after being swept up in a raid, meets handsome Prohibition agent Oliver Anson. Returning briefly for her mother’s funeral, Ginger observes that her stepfather, Duke Kelly, once a feckless barfly, has transformed his own fortunes and those of Ginger’s hardscrabble hometown, River Junction, Maryland, with his bootlegging operations. The G-men are hot on Duke’s trail, and Ginger is enlisted to act as a double agent, delivering packages for Duke and reporting to Anson. Will Anson prove to be as upstanding as he seems, and as hunkish? Very intermittently we return to Ella, who, after rebuffing her husband’s apologies and getting in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commision, is revealed to be a Schuyler, that clan of Manhattan blue bloods that has anchored so many Williams novels. The parallels between the two heroines are underdeveloped, and Ginger’s story is stalled by excessive verbiage designed, apparently, to showcase the author’s fluency in Runyon-speak.
Even for a series launch, too much is left dangling.