Nikki Black, 18, a self-imposed lone wolf since her mother died, fled suburban Chicago to escape her painful past. But when her so-called boyfriend reveals why he really lured her to Southern California — to star in child porn flicks — she ends up on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back and a fourteen-year-old addict named Rain trailing in her shadows. The girls seek refuge at a residential hotel above a punk rock bar in downtown L.A. a few months before the city erupts into chaos during the 1992 riots. At The American Hotel, Nikki makes friends and for the first time in years feels as if she has a real family again.
All that changes when Rain disappears. Everyone except Nikki, including the police, thinks Rain succumbed to the seductive allure of addiction and life on the streets. Nikki finds herself fighting for her own life the closer she gets to unveiling a sinister cover-up by a powerful group that secretly controls the city of angels. City of Angels is an edgy, gritty, mature YA mystery about a teenager’s struggle to not only belong — but survive. It comes out May 9. You can pre-order it here!
YAY! Kirkus Reviews LIKES my book!
“With a strong female protagonist who won’t stop fighting, this page-turner is a delightful and gripping read. (Historical thriller. 14-18)” – Kirkus Reviews
Belcamino sets a coming-of-age mystery against the backdrop of the Rodney King case.
With a dead mother and a father who blames her for it, Veronica Black doesn’t have much going for her at home. When her boyfriend lures her from her Chicago suburb to LA and tries to force her into the child-porn industry, the white 17-year-old finds herself on the run from some very dangerous men. Along the way, she rescues Rain, a 12-year-old runaway, also white, from the same horror. The two find refuge and a multicultural band of friends at the American Hotel, but their newfound peace is shattered when Rain is kidnapped. Determined to find Rain at all costs, Veronica plunges into LA’s dark underbelly, where she encounters an enemy more powerful than she imagined. Peeking through Veronica’s narrative are snippets of the Rodney King case. As tensions rise in the city, ready to erupt, Veronica finds herself in a number of circumstances that force her to think about race and privilege. While Veronica’s introspection only grazes the surface of these topics, she is a well-rounded character who will have readers rooting for her. Belcamino also does an excellent job of fleshing out the novel’s side characters with distinct personalities and some interesting back stories.
With a strong female protagonist who won’t stop fighting, this page-turner is a delightful and gripping read. (Historical thriller. 14-18)
So thrilled by this Crimespree Magazine review:
“Nikki” Black, a 17-year-old runaway, escaped from a bad home situation in the Midwest, to an even worse situation in L.A. When the book opens, Nikki’s new “boyfriend” is attempting to force her into the porn industry. With a little luck and some steel toed boots, Nikki escapes, taking a 12-year-old named Rain with her. When Nikki suggests that they find a cop to help Rain, the girl takes off. Now alone on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back, Nikki finds herself at the American Hotel. A kind bartender sets her up with a room above the bar, and a waitressing gig at a Mexican restaurant down the street.
Nikki hasn’t forgotten Rain, and keeps an eye out for her. She eventually catches up with Rain and finds that the young girl is hooked on heroin. With the help of her new friends at the hotel, they get Rain off the drugs, but they can’t keep her safe from the black limo that patrols the neighborhood looking for her. When Rain does get snatched, no one believes Nikki, but Nikki can’t let it go. She begins investigating who wanted to kidnap a young homeless addict off the streets. People connected with her investigation start turning up dead, and Nikki and her friends must come up with a plan to save Rain. But first, they need to survive the riots that are setting the city on fire.
What a great read. Nikki Black has a sad and compelling backstory, but she is a determined and fierce protagonist which makes her an absolute pleasure to spend time with. I enjoyed watching her grow and develop over the course of the novel. And the secondary characters are well-drawn and compelling as well—every character at the hotel is equally fascinating and adds life and color to the story. The setting and time period are also pitch perfect—LA during the riots was a scary but fascinating time, and it provides a strong backdrop for the mystery Nikki is investigating.
Erica Ruth Neubauer
“I loved and thoroughly enjoyed this newest novel by Kristi Belcamino. While it is classified a YA, it is a book for all ages. The story is set in 1992 after the historic Rodney King beating verdict. Veronica “Nikki” Black is a 17 year alone and wandering in Los Angeles until she finds a group of teens living in The American Hotel. As in life, these teens face heartache and drama but throughout it all, they bond together and show the true meaning of family. This story is full of wonderfully developed, very human characters which anyone could relate to. In addition to a bit of history, there is also music throughout which is delightful. City of Angels is a thrilling story about relationships, family, trust and what defines true grit. I have read all and devoured all of Kristi’s other books but this one is unique and extremely heartfelt and gripping. I highly, highly recommend you read City of Angels – you will not be disappointed!”
“Absolutely loved this book! In Veronica “Nikki” Black Kristi Belcamino created a character who is fierce, genuine and good hearted. The kind of girl you want to be friends. City of Angels is a Young Adult novel but a story that adults will love to.”
“This novel will be shelved in YA, but this is an intelligent thriller adults would enjoy. Kristi evokes the 1990 Harry Bosch L.A.. This novel is set during the L.A. Riots of 1992. Historically accurate, issues of time are explored; Child pornography, Homelessness, Religious cults. The central character Nikki’s journey of self discovery is well developed. My favorite character was Ernie an L.A. policeman with a minor but significant role. In summary, Kristi’s 1st (but hopefully not her last) YA novel is well worth reading. I am confident when YA Edgars are announced in January 2018 this novel will be short listed for an award”
“Let me start by saying that I am an unabashed fan of Kristi Belcamino’s Gabriella Giovanni series, and have come to expect terrific writing from her. That being said I was a little apprehensive as I began reading her newest novel, City of Angels, a book being marketed as “Young Adult” fiction. I was concerned whether her foray into a different “type” of writing would result in a book that might disappoint me.
I am very pleased to say that City of Angels was a wonderful read, capturing and engaging my attention immediately with a cast of young (thus the YA tag) characters, sparked by the damaged and flawed Veronica ‘Nikki’ Black; all of whom I quickly came to care about for their roles in an unfolding drama, featuring the trademark grit, relevance, tension, and feels which I have come to expect in a Kristi Belcamino novel. I think this novel will speak to, and engage, readers across the age spectrum, as there are vivid life challenges portrayed which will find and touch a sensitive spot in every one of those readers.
“City of Angels is a first class thriller set in LA during the time of the Rodney King beating, trial, and subsequent riot. The dangers faced by Nikki, Rain, and their friends kept me turning the pages in anticipation for what happens next. I have enjoyed all of Kristi Belcamino’s Gabriella Giovanni Mysteries, so I’m not surprised by how much I like City of Angels.”
“City of Angels is a gripping novel of loss, grit, and ultimately redemption within the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Nikki Black’s journey of perseverance, commitment, and survival will keep you entranced…I was thrilled to receive an advance copy…Belcamino always hits the mark!”
“Loved this book! It grabbed me from the get-go and I had to read it all the way through without stopping. Great story, authentic setting of time and place; some really, really bad guys, and believable, admirable heroes/heroines. Fast paced, but sentimental at times, affects many emotions. Listed as a Y.A. (Young Adults) genre, but I would recommend it to adults. I could sympathize with the main character and her friends. An extremely gratifying read. So grateful for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy.”
Here is my inspiration board on Tumblr.