A gun moll with a knack for disappearing flees from Prohibition-era Harlem to Portland's Paragon Hotel.
The year is 1921, and "Nobody" Alice James has just arrived in Oregon with a bullet wound, a lifetime's experience battling the New York Mafia, and fifty thousand dollars in illicit cash. She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of home and who saves Alice by leading her to the Paragon Hotel. But her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be an all-black hotel in a Jim Crow city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises.
As she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she understands their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers--burning crosses, electing officials, infiltrating newspapers, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice and her new Paragon "family" are searching for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the woods. To untangle the web of lies and misdeeds around her, Alice will have to answer for her own past, too.
A richly imagined novel starring two indomitable heroines, The Paragon Hotel at once plumbs the darkest parts of America's past and the most redemptive facets of humanity. From international-bestselling, multi-award-nominated writer Lyndsay Faye, it's a masterwork of historical suspense.
Faye (Jane Steele) takes a simultaneously exuberant and weighty approach to historical mystery in her memorable latest. It's 1921, and Alice James, known as Nobody for her uncanny ability to continually reinvent herself while remaining almost totally forgettable, arrives complete with bullet wound in Portland, Ore., after fleeing some bloody history with the New York mob. There, the wounded Nobody, who is white, is taken by a kind and discreet (not to mention attractive) black Pullman porter she'd befriended on the cross-country train ride to the Paragon Hotel, a haven for Portland's small and increasingly besieged black population. The black community's anxieties mount when a young boy who's been brought up communally by the Paragon's residents goes missing. Nobody poses as a journalist while becoming fond of the Paragon's inhabitants, particularly chanteuse Blossom Fontaine. As Nobody investigates the boy's disappearance, she is well served by her ability to observe while remaining unnoticed. Nobody gains access to Blossom's many secrets, as well as those of brilliant-but-fragile white philanthropist Evelina Vaughan, who has her own interest in the missing boy. What starts as a bit of a Prohibition-era crime romp becomes increasingly relevant as issues of mental illness, race, and gender identity take on greater significance. In addition to illuminating Portland's unsavory history of racism, Faye's novel vividly illustrates how high the stakes could and can still be for those claiming and defending their own identities.