Broomfield Enterprise

Western History Renaissance
By Suzanne Lyon
September 25, 2004

The western historical mystery is not a new genre, but it seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts.

Readers of this column will recall a review of Michelle Black's Leadville-based mystery, "The Second Glass of Absinthe" (November 2003). Now comes Ann Parker's similarly situated book, "Silver Lies" (Poisoned Pen Press).

Leadville in 1879 was like a three-ring circus. In this ring we have the silver miners; over here are the saloon keepers, bankers and merchants; and in the center ring are all the shysters and hucksters. It was a volatile mix, and certainly fertile ground for a mystery author.

Parker's heroine is Inez Stannert, owner of the Silver Queen saloon. She is a woman alone, her husband having abandoned her for unknown reasons.

Luckily, her husband's friend and business partner, a black man named Abe Jackson, has stuck around to help. When Joe Rose, a precious metals assayer and husband to Inez's best friend, shows up dead in the snowy muck outside the saloon, Inez is drawn into solving a crime that rapidly becomes more complicated than just a simple murder.

Into this mix strides J.B. Sands, the new interim minister ... or is he? Smooth and handsome, he charms the lady parishioners. All except Inez, who is suspicious of his motives as he attempts to comfort Joe Rose's grieving widow. Naturally, Inez has some secrets of her own that come to light as the story plays out.

"Silver Lies" is a well-plotted, fun read. If at times the number of secondary characters seems to overwhelm the reader, Parker ultimately ties everything together neatly. Short, punchy sentences keep the action moving.

And, as in Black's book, descriptions of Leadville make one feel and see the bruising cold, the biting wind, the desperate fortune seekers, the pathetic drunks and losers.

Parker is a scientific writer in California. Her interest in Colorado history was sparked by learning about her great-grandfather, a blacksmith during Leadville's heyday. "Silver Lies" is her first novel, and one hopes not her last. It has won several awards, including the WILLA award for outstanding historical fiction. It was picked as one of the best mysteries of 2003 by Publisher's Weekly and the Chicago Tribune.


Additional Reviews

Reviews for Leaden Skies:

Publisher's Weekly
The Mystery Gazette
Reader Views
International Thriller Writers: The Big Thrill

Midwest Book Review
Oakland Tribune
The Leadville Herald Democrat

Reviews for Iron Ties:

Publisher's Weekly
Midwest Book Review
Crime Watch - Chicago Tribune
I love a Mystery
The BookBitch

The Cozy Library
Historical Novels Review

for Silver Lies:

Crime Watch
Publisher's Weekly
The Daily Camera
The Drood Review of Mystery
The Leadville Herald Democrat
I love a Mystery
Quincy Public Library
January Magazine
The Best Reviews
The Independent
Broomfield Enterprise

Women in World History Curriculum