Ann Parker’s Silver Rush series is a favorite of mine. She takes readers back to the late 1800’s to Colorado, a time and a historical setting most of us know little about. Then, she puts the mystery in the hands of Inez Stannert, a saloon keeper in Leadville, and shows us life and death through her eyes. These are fascinating mysteries. Now, she puts a new twist in the series with the latest book, Mercury’s Rise.
Inez’ whole life has been turned upside down. Her house burned down. Her missing husband, Mark showed up in town, just when she was prepared to move on with her life and get a divorce on the grounds of desertion. And, furious as she is that her husband has reappeared, Inez is still eager to go to Manitou Springs for a reunion with her sister, Harmony, and Inez’ two-year-old son who has been in Harmony’s keeping due to his health. Now, Harmony’s family has come to Mountain Springs House in Manitou Springs, hoping to take the cure at the medicinal springs there.
But, the stagecoach trip to Manitou Springs turned into a nightmare. First, Inez and her traveling companion, photographer Susan Carothers, had to listen to a bombastic businessman go on and on with his complaints about Leadville, and his investment plans. Those plans are ruined when Mr. Pace has an attack, frantically drinks down his wife’s tonic to try to stop it, and ends up dead. Inez and Mrs. Pace are both suspicious, but they cannot get anyone at Mountain Springs House, including the local lawman, to believe them. So, before Inez is even at the resort for twenty-four hours, she alienates the town’s lawman, is insulted by the “quack doctor,” and frightens her son, who no longer recognizes her.
Then the new widow, Mrs. Pace, turns to Inez for help in investigating her husband’s death. Mrs. Pace’s suspicions have been raised by the brother of another man who died soon after he left the hotel. Since Inez suspects the medicinal cures at the hotel are not so medicinal, she agrees to help. It isn't long before Inez sees how many people are taking tonics, delivered by the nurse at the hotel. At the same time, Mrs. Pace relates stories about her husband's plans to invest in Mountain Springs House, followed by plans for other investors, including Harmony's husband. Concerns for the welfare of her sister and son add to Inez' eagerness to investigate. But, she’s forced to turn to the one person she would rather not ask for help, her husband, Mark.
Once again, Ann Parker has taken readers into the past. Colorado in 1880 was a land of opportunity, investment, and wild schemes. Manitou Springs itself was a refuge for people searching for cures for tuberculosis and other ailments. Inez Stannert was visiting the "Saratoga of the West," a refuge for the wealthy. However, she found herself uncomfortable, "Too confined by rules and society expectations, too concerned for family." Parker took her character out of her element, and plunked her down in a new setting. It allowed the author to explore the resort community, the quacks, the medicines, and schemes of the time, along with the roles and restrictions on women.
Parker's Silver Rush mystery series explores the history of Colorado through Inez Stannert's experiences soon after the Civil War. Mercury's Rise does not paint a pretty picture of Colorado in 1880. But, it was a place where Inez Stannert has found her life. She's a strong woman, fit for life in that day and place. She's strong enough to forge a life with and without a husband. She's the perfect character to bring the story of Colorado to life, and to investigate the murders and secrets of the place she calls home.
Ann Parker's books are filled with details of the period and the life, along with the excitement and adventure of the frontier. It's a mystery series, and Mercury's Rise is a mystery, for any readers who appreciate the combination of history and suspense.
Ann Parker's website is www.annparker.net.
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker. Poisoned Pen Press. ©2011. ISBN 9781590589618 (hardcover), 250p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book through NetGalley from the publisher, in hopes I would review it.