Clarence Budington Kelland. Dangerous Angel (1953) 250 pp.
First there was the gold rush; then came the silver mines of the Comstock Lode. In 1872, San Francisco was poised to set off the third major boom of California’s young history—diamonds. Set against the backdrop of the Great Diamond Hoax, this novel tells the story of Anneke Villard, a beautiful and ambitious young woman newly arrived in San Francisco from Kentucky. With a modest bankroll, and determined to establish herself in society, Anneke quickly aligns herself with William C. Ralston, head of the Bank of California, and his wife. Under the sponsorship of the Ralstons, Anneke is granted entrée into the city’s young elite. She is also well-placed to pick up bits and pieces of business information that, with the help of her trusted duenna Hepsibah, she skillfully turns to her advantage. Anneke’s plans—and, indeed, her life—are threatened when Philip Arnold, whom she had known as a child in Kentucky, and his partner John Slack, who are in San Francisco trying to establish financial backing for their scheme to establish a diamond syndicate. When they present a bag of diamonds and other jewels to the city’s leading citizens that they claimed to have found in a secret location, the investors are eager to get in on the ground floor. Anneke soon becomes suspicious and when she shares her doubts with Arnold, he and Slack plan to take steps to keep her from sharing them with anyone else—permanent steps. An interesting portrait of San Francisco in the wide-open 1870s, liberally sprinkled with actual persons, institutions, and events.
Baird & Greenwood 1353