Sinners of Starlight City by Anika Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a refreshing change of pace from all the WW2 books I’ve been reading! I’d never read Anika Scott before, but based on how much I enjoyed Sinners of Starlight City, I’ll definitely read her again.

Set at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, Sinners is a story of revenge and family. Rosa Mancuso has come to Chicago to avenge the murder of her mother. Her plans for revenge are turned upside down, however, when her long-lost cousin Mina arrives looking for help. Turns out Mina has just given birth to a mixed race baby. She wants to keep the child, but her mafioso father has other plans. He’s hired Danny steal the baby and leave her in an orphanage.

This sparks an elaborate game of cat and mouse between Rosa and Danny, between Danny and Mina’s mafia father, between Mina and her pursuers, and lastly, between Rosa and Paolo, the Italian pilot she wants to murder. It’s all very film-noirish.

What gives Sinners its depth though, is the way Scott uses the story to explore the definition of family. Rosa is tied to her Chicago relatives and her quest for revenge through blood. Yet it becomes clear very early in the book that her true family are the carnival and sideshow performers with whom she lives. They, Rosa included, are a loving band of misfits who look out for each other.

Scott also manages to weave in messages about race, fascism and motherhood. For a book about a revenge murder, there’s a lot of meat beneath the surface.

Using the World’s Fair as a setting was brilliant as well. Scott does a magnificent job of capturing the beauty and spectacle of the event.

My only complaint about the book was how she handled Mina’s character. She and her backstory felt underdeveloped compared to Rosa’s and Danny’s. I know she was integral to the plot, but I’m not sure she warranted a separate point of view.

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