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,
Baird & Greenwood 1353