After weeks of preparation, the San Francisco World's Fair is set to open on May 25, 1940. Early that morning, the named corpse of beautiful Pandora Blake is found sprawled across a platform at the Artists and Models exhibition, the word "kike" carved into her body. Before contacting the police, the Exposition owner calls in hard-boiled Miranda Corbie (City of Dragons, 2010). Miranda feels an affinity for a young victim who, like herself, was once a small-town girl from Omaha. The private eye's relationship with Captain O'Meara is strained at the best of times; the fair's importance and a heat wave do nothing to ameliorate their conflict. Under police pressure, she gets fired from the gig. But, lacking another case at the moment, she can't help trying to do right by Pandora, whose friends freely offer opinions about her killer. Both hard-bitten Sheila and much-younger Loretta finger Henry, a violent animal trainer. When Miranda questions him, his pent-up rage is so palpable that she reaches for her .22. The Chesterfield-smoking gumshoe has a haunted past, revealed in snippets of flashback. Developments in the case come rapid-fire, beginning with the similar murder of Annie Learner, who also worked at Artists and Models. When ex-cop Gerry Duggan is arrested for both crimes, Miranda takes on the unsavory job of proving his innocence.
Stanley's brittle prose and period touches effectively capture the feeling of ’40s noir, even if the somber tone seems forced at times.