First Sentence: It was hard to find somewhere close by the crowded silver mining boomtown to practice killing a man, but Antonia was nothing if not determined
Inez Stannert and her husband, Mark, are back in Leadville. The wife of their friend and partner in the Silver Queen Saloon is due to deliver their first child but is distressed by the words of fortune-teller Drina Gizzi. Drina’s child, Antonia, has been posing as a boy, Tony, to get work but Inez isn’t fooled. When Drina’s mother is murdered, and her body disappears the question is whether she is still alive, or was she stolen by a resurrection man? Inez is determined to keep Antonia safe and help find the killer.
Stories that are more than one note are so much more interesting, and Parker has given us a full symphony. That there are multiple threads doesn’t cause the plot to be confusing. It, instead, creates a rich, multi-dimensional cloth. Sorry for the mixed metaphors; blame enthusiasm. However, it’s not often a book opens with the planning of a murder, and you find yourself rooting for the potential killer.
Parker does a very good job of bringing readers, new and previous, up to speed on the characters and the state of life in Leadville. The numerous relationships, with their conflicts and complications, make this a fascinating story. We truly see life as it was during this time; not of the wealthy, but of the scrappers and survivors, those who have made their own way, from Inez down to the kids on the street. One can’t help but admire the “newsies.” They are the ragtag kids—some orphaned, some not—who sell broadsheets and work the clean-up jobs, but how help one another survive.
Although all the characters are effective, it is to Inez and Antonia we gravitate. Inez is intelligent, independent, strong and capable, and we see those same attributes in Antonia. They’ve learned the hard way that they need to depend on themselves, and friends, to get by. Inez also knows, and accepts, who she is, without underestimating herself or women in general.
Where some books may include descriptions of food, as Inez owns a saloon, we learn more about alcohol. One will now know the ingredients of a hot Scotch whisky sling. Yet food wasn’t always cheese biscuits or poor fare—“We’d start with soup, fresh oysters in chicken broth….Then, baked trout, turkey and quail pie, prairie chicken on roast, green peas. Potatoes, lobster, nuts, coffee and pound cake.” And that’s just dinner for two. And then, there are the details about the clothing of the time, which is quite fascinating.
Beyond all the well-researched period details is a very well-written story of relationships, gamblers and philanders, of spiritualists and murder. There is very good suspense which builds well throughout the story.
“What Gold Buys” is an excellent historical mystery with a very exciting climax and an intriguing ending which leaves readers wanting to know what happens next.
WHAT GOLD BUYS (Hist Mys-Inez Stannart-Leadville, CO-1880) – Ex
Parker, Ann – 5th in series
Poisoned Pen Press – Sept 2016