Poisoned Pen Press, Sept 2003, 24.95, 420 pp.
Leadville, Colorado is booming in 1879 as people arrive hoping to get rich by finding the silver mother lode. Inez Stennert is becoming rich as the owner of the Silver Queen Saloon but her personal life is very unsettled because her wandering man walked out one day and never came back. Inez doesn't know if her husband is alive or dead; she waits for him while her sister raises her sickly son back east.
Fight and brawls are frequent occurrences but everyone is shocked when upright family man Joe Rose is found murdered behind Inez's saloon. Inez starts investigating the assayer's homicide because his widow and son are very dear to her and she would like to be one to bring his killer to justice. She learns that Joe was not as law abiding as she believed and her questions are making some people very uneasy, individuals who will not hesitate to kill her if she gets too close to the truth.
Ann Parker captures the ambiance of a mid-nineteenth century western boomtown so colorfully that readers will imagine they are there. The heroine is an independent woman who lives by her own rules at a time when females were expected to stay in their place. Inez is bossy and stubborn but she is also the kind of person one wants to have in your corner when life turns rough. Let's hope there are more stories starring this one of a kind protagonist.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner