Fasten your seatbelt. Ann Parker grabs the reader on the first page of A Dying Note, and the pace continues relentlessly until the last page. This is her sixth novel in The Silver Rush mystery series. A young man's battered body washes up on the filthy banks of the Mission Creek Canal. No witnesses come forward; a cloud hangs over the entire neighborhood. Then the protagonist starts to dig for more information and surprising plot twists takes readers to a simpler time...or maybe not so simple after all.
The protagonist, Inez Stannert, is an anomaly, a successful business woman in San Francisco's rough and tumble 1880's. Inez survives by not flaunting her wealth and secretly makes loans to other women who need a hand to get started or stay afloat in their own businesses. She is determined to pass herself off as a lady, though she is still co-owner of the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville, Colorado. By day she manages a large and busy music store. Inez secretly hopes to become an equal partner with the store's owner, an acclaimed violinist.
Listening carefully to all the conversations around her, Stannert seems to never miss a thing. Her 13-year-old "niece," Antonia, is a street urchin she brought with her from Leadville. She proudly sends the very bright Antonia to school each day and provides her with a structured life. The bond of affection between these two clever characters is believable and at times heart-wrenching.
The story is told in third person point of view. The supporting characters are well developed, and the plot twists keeps the reader guessing. The plot is layered with intrigue and ghosts from the past. In some ways this novel reminded me of Isabelle Allende's Daughter of Fortune, also set in the west and San Francisco in about the same time period.
The "finder of lost things," Mr. de Bruijn, decides to stay on at the hotel as a full-time resident. The stage is clearly set for the next book in the series with this crafty ending in the last paragraph of A Dying Note: "Mr. de Bruijn, I daresay we shall find ourselves working together again soon."
Ann Parker is the author of the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series set in 1880's, featuring saloon owner Inez Stannert. Ann Parker is a science writer by day and mystery writer by night. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
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