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Contraband takes place in a border town aptly named Gibeon in the early years of Prohibition. Carmel Lee, a typical Kelland heroine, comes to Gibeon having inherited the local newspaper. Motivated by the drive to see the floundering paper succeed, she uncovers a vast network of corruption.
As with most Kelland books, the emphasis is on the plucky outsider trying keep the promises made while maintaining a sense of personal integrity. The plot usually revolves around the taking on of a new job and often time far afield of the protagonist's skills. Ingenuity and common sense mixed with pig-headedness help to find unique solutions to long unsolved problems.
I found it striking that Carmel puts herself in danger by taking on the head of this locally brewed crime syndicate. In many of Kelland's books the emphasis is more on the challenge of learning something new than on self sacrifice for a greater good.
The one bit that disappointed me with the book was the lackluster attempt at romance. There is no reason for Carmel to suddenly decide she wants a lover nor any reason for her to pick the man she does except perhaps to redeem the character who up until then had been mostly a source of expository information.