Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

United States, Colorado - 1879

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

Silver Lies

by Ann Parker

One easily could imagine a film based on Inez Stannart, saloon keeper in the booming silver mining town of Leadville, Colorado, and on her often disreputable, rowdy, get rich quick peers, including the powerful owners of the large mines who consider “integrity and honesty as liabilities” in their race to seize wealth. The town is perfect too. Although Leadville has pretensions of grandeur with its new opera house and soon to be built train connection direct to Denver, Parker illustrates a typical mining town, existing only because of silver. The story takes place in blood numbing winter. Leadville’s mountain streets are mud, made slushy with snow, its buildings are hastily constructed wood structures, its sanitation mostly nonexistent.

Most of the workers are men who labor underground or in the smelters. Some try their luck on their own, seeking the vein which will bring them wealth. Exodusters, dirt farmers from the South driven West to seek employment, show up as do the women who work as independent photographers, cooks, laundresses, or as “brightly dressed denizens” in Leadville’s multiple houses of prostitution. Social distinctions and antagonisms naturally exist between the latter and the wives who have “halfheartedly followed husbands struck by gold or silver fever.”

As the title suggests, many in the town hide their true identities and pasts behind lies. The story’s revelations of truths provide a plot full of dramatic twists and turns. With the mysterious disappearance of her gambling husband, Inez must depend on the fortunes of her saloon and the steadfast support of her African American business partner, Abe Jackson. Complications arise with the murder of a friend. Inez’s attempts to uncover the reason for his unlikely death reveals secrets which put her life in jeopardy as well. Her perilous explorations are lightened only by the romantic tension between herself and the newly arrived Reverend Sands.

Parker’s Author’s Note gives solid historical information about Leadville, including which events are real and when Bat Masterson in fact appeared in town. The book’s extensive back stories, however, often intrude on the narrative flow. Given their length, and with a little mystery thrown in, they could be the first book in an Inez Stannart series. Silver Lies is Parker’s first book.

*****

  


The second book in the Silver Rush series, Iron Ties, has Inez dealing with the arrival of Ulysses S. Grant to Leadville and murders that may result from lingering Civil War animosities.


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Women in World History Curriculum