Westside Saints, by W.M. Akers

After the extraordinary events of her first outing in W.M. Akers’ Westside, Gilda Carr is even more determined to stick to tiny mysteries. She’s got two to work on as Westside Saints opens. The first is to find the exact shade of blue that matches the sky when the sun sets in New York. Gilda has feelers out on that one. Second, and perhaps equally impossible to solve, is the disappearance of the finger of Saint Roisín, stolen from the Electric Church. These tiny mysteries are Gilda’s way of making a living in the wilds of New York’s Westside. Not only do they help Gilda make a living, but they also help her stay out of the way of the more dangerous inhabitants of the Westside. That’s the idea anyway because nothing ever seems to go to plan for Gilda.

The Westside in Aker’s version of 1922’s New York is a strange place. Guns don’t work, nor do electric devices. Because the NYPD can’t enforce the laws, the place is run by gangs who traffic in illegal alcohol and drugs. It’s an almost medieval place. Gilda grew up here and is fiercely protective of her violent little home. That said, if she can take down people whose extralegal shenanigans will ruin lives or get people killed, Gilda will. The cases of Saint Roisín’s finger and the mysterious shade of blue give Gilda a chance to investigate the Electric Church, which seems to make most of its money by promising grieving widows that their lost loved ones will someday be resurrected. It’s clearly a scam, isn’t it? Gilda is sure it’s a scam…until not only does the dead founder of the Electric Church reappear, but also the mother Gilda lost to tuberculosis years ago.

Once again, Gilda is swept up in schemes way above her pay grade as the solver of tiny mysteries. The plot is an incredible adventure, weighted by the emotional tension between Gilda and her putative mother, Mary. The Mary who popped into Gilda’s life looks longer than her daughter for the very good reason that this version is the one who hasn’t met Gilda’s difficult father. This Mary is lively, haughty, and engaged to someone else. She rushes into danger and is more than willing to throw punches and stamp in insoles while Gilda hovers trying to protect her future(?) mother. It’s really entertaining to watch.

That relationship and the madcap plot make this book as good, or better, than the first one in the series. I strongly recommend Gilda’s adventures in the weird Westside to anyone who likes their mysteries strange, complicated, and set in amazing alternate worlds.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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