The latest Silver Rush historical mystery by Ann Parker, “What Gold Buys,” is now available, and we’ve caught up with the doings of saloonkeepers Inez and Mark Stannert, who, with their partner, Abe Jackson, own the Silver Queen Saloon here in Leadville.
The Silver Queen is located at the corner of Harrison Avenue and State Street, and the action of the novel takes place in 1880.
For those who have been following this series, it’s enough to say that the Stannerts are back in Leadville, and Inez is considering divorcing her husband, who recently disappeared for a year and a half, leaving her and Abe to manage the saloon. In the interim, Inez has established a liaison with the Rev. Justice Sands, a local minister.
What makes the Silver Rush books most interesting to those of us who live in Leadville is how Parker uses the town in each of her tales. Although there was never a Silver Queen Saloon at Harrison and State, the streets themselves are authentic, as are Tiger and Stillborn alleys, which also play a part in the story.
We’re especially pleased that the Herald Democrat building has somewhat of a role in the story as well, not as a newspaper office but as a mortuary, which was what the building at 717 Harrison Avenue was when first constructed. In truth, the building was constructed in 1895, so it didn’t exist at the time Parker’s book takes place, but our basement, where the bodies were embalmed, is somewhat of a prototype for Alexander’s Undertaking in the book. Several years ago we took Parker on a tour through the basement here.
Newspaper carriers, or newsies, also play a role in the story. One of the main characters, Antonia, is a young girl who disguises herself as a boy and works as a newsie for The Independent. (As far as we know, there never was a newspaper here called The Independent.) She and her fellow newsies compete with the carriers at The Chronicle (wearing their special uniforms with brass buttons), which was one of the papers owned back then by Carlyle Channing Davis, who also acquired the Leadville Herald and the Democrat.
Along with what seems to be a well-researched look into the undertaking business of 1880, Parker also looked into the concept of the occult in Leadville back in the day, and this plays a major part in the story. Oh yes, there also are body snatchers.
As is usual, Parker brings her story to a satisfactory conclusion, but dangles a few elements of a cliffhanger to inspire the reader to await book No. 6. This next book will jump ahead in time to 1882, Parker said.
Leadvillites will be able to meet Parker and hear more about her series at the Lake County Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m.
She will appear with Donna Baier Stein, author of “The Silver Baron’s Wife” about Baby Doe Tabor.