Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

The Paragon Hotel

Lyndsay Faye (Jane Steele) brings readers a feisty, feminist heroine in this Prohibition-era thriller about a white gun moll from Harlem starting her life over at an all-black hotel in Portland, Ore.

In 1921, 25-year-old Alice "Nobody" James lands at the Paragon Hotel with a satchel containing $50,000 in cash and a bullet hole in her side. She's fleeing an unhinged mobster who once loved her. Her shelter comes courtesy of Max, a black Pullman porter who befriended her on a train during her escape from New York. Max's friends at the Paragon, including irascible hotel owner Dr. Doddrige Pendleton and head housekeeper Mavereen Meader, save Nobody's life and take her in. The Ku Klux Klan is growing ever bolder in Portland, so accepting a white boarder seems a fraught proposition. However, they do so cautiously, and Nobody soon finds a friend in charismatic cabaret singer Blossom Fontaine, who lives down the hall at the Paragon.

Faye's expedition into Oregon's history of racism and a New York City ruled by mobsters is stuffed with danger, luscious period clothing and zinging Jazz Age patter. Once a spy for a criminal mastermind, Nobody changes personas with ease depending on her company, but as her relationships with the Paragon's inhabitants deepen, she begins to realize even she doesn't know the real Alice James. As only the best historical fiction can do, The Paragon Hotel captures a certain period in time and gives the reader ample opportunity to draw connections with the present day. Faye's talent sparkles like champagne bubbles and bugle-bead fringe on a flapper's gown. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads