ANN PARKER – Silver Lies. Poisoned Pen Press, hardcover, September 2003; trade paperback, April 2006.

ANN PARKER Silver Lies

   A first novel, and for a mystery, it’s a long one, some 420 pages, but for a work of historical fiction, the page count might be about right. It’s 1879, and Leadville is a booming small metropolis in Colorado, the inhabitants of which are afflicted with “ever-present cold, lingering homesickness, and the pangs of silver fever.”

   Inez Stannert is one of the few women in the town, co-owner of a flourishing saloon, and since the town marshal seems to be totally uninterested, she’s also the only person willing to investigate the possible murder of the town’s assayer, who’s been found trampled to death on the frigid muck of a nearby street.

   Adding to Inez’ concerns is her husband, who’s been missing for several months, but the new minister in town seems more than willing to help her forget. The legendary Bat Masterton also makes an appearance, but it’s little more than a cameo, as Inez and the Reverend J.B. Sands end up doing all of the heavy lifting.

   As a mystery, it’s adequate. It works better as a historical novel — life in this rough-and-tumble corner of the world is brought to life quite effectively in two quite opposite and surprising ways: the scenic wonder of 19th century Colorado and the wretched environment it had to have been for anyone actually trying to live there.

   The story in Silver Lies is less effective as far as the romantic elements are concerned, falling prey to some fairly stand-by cliches, and much of the author’s work is undone, paradoxically, by some better-than-average characterization that has to be retrofitted, and abruptly so, to make the rather lurid conclusion work.

   Acceptable, and maybe more so, depending on where your interests lie, but if there’s a paperback forthcoming, you might choose to put it off till then.

— August 2003

Note: This review has been revised slightly since it first appeared in Historical Novels Review.

       The Inez Stannert “Silver Rush Mystery” series —

1. Silver Lies (2003)
2. Iron Ties (2006)


3. Leaden Skies (2009)